When is the moment when a promising young pitcher finally puts it all together and becomes a topflight big league pitcher? That’s an awfully tough question to answer in most cases, but for Matt Moore, it seemed to be the start of the 2013 regular season. On Saturday, Moore dominated yet again as the Rays had a dominating performance both at the mound and in the batter’s box on their way to a 10-4 win.
The Rays lost the first two games of their series versus the White Sox, blowing early leads in both games. From the start of this one, though, things felt entirely different. Ben Zobrist drilled a 2-run homer in the first inning to give the Rays another early advantage, and James Loney singled in a run in the 3rd. All of that took place while Matt Moore held the White Sox hitless, striking out 6 in the first three innings. Moore struck out two more to begin the 4th before an Adam Dunn home run got Chicago in the hit column and on the board. But that was the only run they would get while Moore was in the game. Moore went 6 innings allowing 1 run on just 3 hits, striking out 9 while walking only 1. All the strikeouts did his pitch count up as he threw 101 pitches in just those six frames, but the White Sox looked bewildered against him and he just continues to blow away hitters. Moore won’t stay this hot all season–but he’s one heck of a pitcher, and the rest of baseball has a lot to be scared of in coming years.
The early run support was only the beginning for the Rays as they pounded out 10 runs on 19 hits in total, scoring at least 1 run in every inning but the 2nd and the 4th. Evan Longoria followed up a homer in Friday’s game with a 4 for 6 day on Saturday, doubling, driving in 1, and scoring twice, and Longoria wasn’t the only Ray who registered 4 hits. Kelly Johnson broke out of a recent 3-for-22 rut with a huge game, going 4 for 5 with a triple, a stolen base, 2 RBI, and a run scored, and suddenly he’s hitting .242 after hits average had stayed under .200 almost the entire season. That’s the magic of a small sample size, but nevertheless it’s great to see him turning himself around. Zobrist and Desmond Jennings both homered and James Loney and Sam Fuld registered multiple hits as well as the Rays offense was clicking on all cylinders. They not only racked up the hits but went 7 for 18 (.389) with runners in scoring position. Offensive games like this will be few and far between for the Rays, but you have to hope that this can start a nice run for the Rays at the plate and as a team overall.
On an otherwise near-perfect day, Jose Molina did leave the game after one at-bat after getting hit by a pitch, but it turned out that he just had a bruise on his right leg just above his knee and he will be fine. Kyle Farnsworth also had a tough time in the 8th, allowing 3 hits and 2 walks while recording just 1 out, but two of the hits came on groundballs and he just had some bad luck. In any event, the game was far out of reach by that point.
Amazing to see Moore breezing by hitters again and the hitters having a blast at the plate, and the Rays hope that this is something that can continue. Their immediate objective will be to try to carry-over this game into Sunday as David Price takes on Chicago’s Dylan Axelrod. They say that momentum is only good as your next day’s starting pitcher, and while that Price fellow may not be pitching quite as well as Moore right now, he’s a pretty good pitcher.