Matt Moore‘s two best outings of the season have both been losses. First his 10 strikeout performance on May 28th versus the White Sox and now on Sunday, when he lost despite going 8 innings for the first time in his MLB career. That tells you a lot about how meaningless won-loss record is for pitchers. But wins and losses have a lot to do with pitchers’ confidence. It’s great to know that even if you’re not as sharp as you would like to be on any particular night, your team can still pick you up. On the opposite edge of the spectrum is the feeling that you have to be perfect just to have a chance to record a win and anything short is failure. Hopefully Matt Moore doesn’t believe that, but it has to be in the back of his mind somewhere.
The Mariners struck first in the top of the opening frame, scoring on a Jesus Montero RBI double. The Rays tied it in the bottom of the inning after Ben Zobrist knocked a 2-out double and Matthew Joyce drove him in with a single. But a Brendan Ryan double in the top of the second gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead.
With 1 out in the third inning, Montero lined a single to left field. That was it. Moore proceeded to retire the next 17 Mariners in order, hitting his stride and getting all his pitches working, especially his overbearing mid-90′s fastball. Moore tossed 8 innings allowing just the 2 early runs on 5 hits, striking out 7 while walking none. It was the first time all year that he did not walk a batter in a start. 72 of his 104 pitches were strikes as he had his command and made hitters look bad. But the two early runs were enough for the Mariners.
Blake Beavan was outstanding for the Mariners in his own right, getting out 21 of the last 24 batters he faced after allowing the run in the first inning. The Rays had few opportunities and could not seize them. After the first inning, Beavan didn’t allow multiple baserunners in a single inning, and the Rays could not get a runner in scoring position until the 8th, when Desmond Jennings reached on an error and reached second on a hit-and-run play as Jose Molina grounded out. But Jennings was stranded at second base and the game remained 2-1 after 8.
Kyle Farnsworth had a nice top of the 9th for the Rays, striking out 1 in a perfect inning with help from a beautiful play from Ben Zobrist as he moved to the shortstop side of second base to field a groundball. The Rays hoped to muster something against Tom Wilhelmson in the bottom of the 9th. But things didn’t look good as Carlos Pena struck out on a nasty curveball to begin the frame before Ben Zobrist grounded out. But Matt Joyce kept the game alive with a bullet double off the right field wall and after a prolonged at-bat, Jeff Keppinger walked to give the Rays the winning run on base. Up came Hideki Matsui to pinch-hit for Brooks Conrad. But as has been the case basically since the beginning, the results were disastrous. Matsui popped up to shortstop on a first pitch fastball as the Rays lost 2-1, lossing their series to the Mariners 2 games to 1. Beavan (5-6) got the win, Moore (6-7) took the loss despite a superb performance, and Wilhelmson nailed down his 11th save. The Rays have gotten great pitching the past two nights, but their offense just has not be able to push runs across. At the end of the day, the winner in baseball is the team with the most runs across. Your pitchers won’t be perfect, so one or two runs simply won’t cut it. The Rays saw some great signs in the game, from Moore and others. But the win was noticeably absent and the Rays have to find some way to put some offense together if they want that to change moving forward.