Rays fans have seen Matt Moore and know that with his dominating repertoire, he has a real chance to be an excellent major league pitcher someday. Throughout his rookie year, however, we’ve been subjected to seeing Moore be inconsistent, looking unhittable for a couple innings, and then being unable to find the strike zone and falling apart. On Saturday night against the Angels, we saw some more of that from Moore, but he was able to keep it together to lead the Rays to a 3-0 win.
Moore dominated in the first three innings, allowing just a hit and a walk in the first three innings while striking out 5. He struck out the side in the 1st, working around a Torii Hunter single, and he threw just 6 pitches in the 3rd. And the Rays gave him the run support he needed as they worked against Angels starter C.J. Wilson. Ben Zobrist hit a 1st inning sac fly and slammed a solo homer in the 3rd, with a Maicer Izturis error also scoring a run in the 2nd. But things did not look good in the 4th. Moore got ahead of Albert Pujols 1-2 but hit him in the ribs with a pitch. Then Mark Trumbo grounded a single and suddenly the Angels had the tying run at the plate. But Moore kept his composure, striking out Howie Kendrick, forcing Alberto Callaspo to line to a perfectly-positioned Desmond Jennings, and forcing Vernon Wells to ground out to end the inning.
The 5th inning was even scarier. With 1 out, Bobby Wilson doubled and then a Ryan Roberts throwing error gave the Angels 1st and 2nd with 1 out. Moore then walked Torii Hunter to load the bases. But he forced Pujols to pop out and suddenly he was one out away from getting out of the inning. With Mark Trumbo at the plate, Moore’s 1-0 pitch to him was wild and got past Jose Molina. The ball ricocheted off the backstop right to Molina, who flipped the ball to Moore covering the plate. Moore made a swipe tag on Bobby Wilson and got the call from the umpire to escape trouble. It’s questionable whether Moore actually tagged Wilson before he touched home plate, but he had the awareness to cover home and give himself a chance, and he was fortunate enough to escape. Moore continued his outing with a scoreless 6th working around a Kendrick single and then he departed following an Izturis flyout to begin the 7th. Moore went 6.1 shutout innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2. Unlike in some of his other outings, Moore kept it together when his command began to go and the result was a sparkling final line.
Jake McGee struck out both batters he faced to complete the 7th before Joel Peralta worked around a Hunter single in the 8th and Fernando Rodney tossed a perfect 9th for the save as the Rays won 3-0. Moore (7-7) earned the win, Wilson (9-7) took the loss and Rodney saved his 29th game. The Rays came away with a crisp win thanks to Moore’s pitching and some solid offense from Zobrist and the lineup, and they evened up their series with the Angels with the rubber game coming on Sunday at 3:35 PM. Jeremy Hellickson gets the ball against Angels new acquisition Zach Greinke as the Rays look to win their second straight series.