Warning: from here on out, the games mean something. Everyone, though, is more than ready to accept that change. Opening Day will take place beginning tomorrow as the Rays and all of baseball ready themselves to get the 2013 MLB Season to an exhilarating start. It’s an exciting time five months in the making and it has finally arrived. The Rays ended their spring training season with an unbaseball-like 3-3 tie versus the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field, with a few players looking in midseason form.
Matt Moore entered Saturday having struggled all spring and in need of a breakthrough performance, managing just a 4.67 ERA and a 15-13 strikeout to walk ratio in 17.1 innings pitched. Against the Tigers, he did exactly that. Moore went 4 innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 5 while walking only 1. He threw just 54 pitches, 37 strikes, and needed only 29 pitches to dispose of the Tigers over his final three innings of work. Something finally clicked and hitters couldn’t stand a chance. Moore will be facing huge responsibility this season as he’s lined up to be the Rays’ 3rd starter, and he showed in this outing exactly why the Rays believe he can not only fill the role but provide them with significantly more.
The Rays offense in this game came from a trio of home runs from their infielders: James Loney in the 5th, Ryan Roberts in the 6th, and Sean Rodriguez in the 7th. The former two hit their home runs off of formidable Tigers starter Doug Fister, and Loney and Rodriguez both had themselves nice days, going 2 for 3 with their big home run. Kelly Johnson also had a double to cap his strong finish to the spring. The 3 runs would only be enough to come away with a tie in this one, but the Rays’ major league players went an outstanding 9 for 28 (.321) against a tough pitcher and Joe Maddon had to be pleased by the way his offense performed in their last exhibition.
After Moore’s sparkling outing, five relievers finished the game, with Jamey Wright, Kyle Farnsworth, Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney each getting in an inning of work. Wright allowed a pair of runs on a Brayan Pena homer on he pitch Maddon described as an “experiment that failed” before a misplay by a rookie ball outfielder led to McGee letting a run across in the 7th. Overall, everyone looked good, with McGee especially impressing as he touched 96 MPH with his fastball, and the Rays are excited for what should be a sparkling bullpen once again.
Always want to win and nobody likes a tie, but the Rays will certainly take the “glass half-full” approach with this one as they take its positives into the start of the regular season. Moore delivered an outing that could drive him to even greater heights, Loney and Rodriguez looked great at the plate, and the bullpen looked good in finishing off the game as no one emerged victorious but both teams walked off thrilled with how talented their team is and eagerly anticipating the season to finally get underway.