Finally we saw him. We saw that pitcher that we had been expecting to see all season. Moore was hitting spots and baffling hitters. That bodes extremely well for Moore moving forward. Unfortunately, the breakthrough occurred in the fourth inning- and the Rays offense could not generate offense to compensate.
The game began inauspiciously for Moore. He got ahead of Mike Aviles 0-2 before missing his spots to make the count 3-2 and allowing a single. After striking out Dustin Pedroia on 6 pitches, he allowed a single to David Ortiz. Then he hit Adrian Gonzalez with his fastball and suddenly the bases were loaded. Moore followed with a strikeout of Will Middlebrooks, but then after an 8-pitch plate appearance, Moore walked Cody Ross to force in a run to hand the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. Moore struck out Daniel Nava to end the frame and actually struck out the side. But he allowed a run and threw 33 pitches.
In the second, Moore got ahead of Marlon Byrd 1-2 but then allowed the count to go full again and leaving a fastball mid-out, and Byrd drilled a solo homer, his first as a member of the Red Sox, to give Boston a 2-0 lead. Moore escaped further damage in the inning but his pitch count was at 49. Moore seemed to get into a groove in the third inning, but after striking out the first two batters in the inning, Moore left a changeup, the third consecutive changeup he threw to Ross, up in the zone and Ross drilled a solo homer just left of dead centerfield to extend the Red Sox lead to 3-0.
In the bottom of the third, the Rays finally scratched across a run against Red Sox starter Felix Doubront on a catcher’s interference that allowed B.J. Upton to reach, an HBP by Luke Scott, and a Jeff Keppinger RBI single to pull within 3-1. Moore followed with a 1-2-3 inning with 2 strikeouts, and the Rays got him another run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Sean Rodriguez singled and moved to second on a groundout with 2 outs to bring Rich Thompson to the plate. Thompson made his MLB debut in 2004 but had just one plate appearance, grounding into a double play, before being sent down to the minor league until the Rays acquired him this season. In his second major league at-bat, Thompson struck out. But in his third, he singled home Rodriguez to pull the Rays within 3-2. Thompson would steal second base, and after Ben Zobrist walked, the Rays executed a successful double steal ahead of a B.J. Upton walk. Luke Scott then hit a bullet towards right field. But it landed in Adrian Gonzalez’s glove to end the inning.
Moore got another 1-2-3 inning in the 5th, getting a strikeout and two groundouts as he threw just 12 pitches. He then finished his outing in the 6th, forcing two routine flyouts along with a groundout. Moore’s final numbers were not bad at all. He went 6 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 8 while walking just 1. He did allow the two home runs as his groundout to flyout ratio was just 5-5. But something suddenly clicked for Moore and it should be just the start.
The Red Sox pulled away in the 8th, getting a baserunner each against Burke Badenhop and J.P. Howell before a well-placed Cody Ross groundball against Wade Davis turned into a 2-run single to give the Red Sox a 5-2 lead. The Rays managed to get 1st and 3rd with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th, prompting Bobby Valentine to bring in closer Alfredo Aceves, and B.J. Upton blooped a single to make it a 5-3 game. But Luke Scott grounded out to end the threat and Aceves got 3 groundouts in the 9th as the Red Sox won 5-3. Doubront (4-1) was the winner in the game, allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, on 6 hits in 5.2 innings, striking out 7 while walking 4. Moore (1-4) took the loss, but there are more positives to take away from this game for him than negatives. Aceves earned his 8th save for Boston. It’s unfortunate for the Rays that Moore finally figured it out in the 4th inning of this game, but the Rays left 12 men on base in this game, actually going 3 for 9 with runners in scoring position but stranding multiple runners in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 8th innings, not what you want at all. The Rays settle for a split in this short two-game series as they fall to 24-15 on the season, one game back of the Orioles for first place in the AL East. The Rays get a dose of Interleague this weekend as they take on the Atlanta Braves in a 3-game set at the Trop. The Braves will enter with a 24-15 record, identical to the Braves. It should be fun, and hopefully the Rays can come out ahead.