Matt Moore knows all about the havoc rain can create for a baseball team. Leaving after just one inning in the Rays’ 9-2 victory over the Indians on May 31st messed him up for his subsequent three starts as he allowed 19 earned runs in just 12.1 innings of work (13.86 ERA) before he was finally able to get back on track. But when you have a team coming together as the Rays have the last few days, rain isn’t a momentum-killer, just a pause of your DVR before you finish watching the game knowing full well that the Rays were never going to lose.
Saturday was one of those games were no hitter could dream of hitting Matt Moore. The Twins were fortunate that they only had to endure him for 3 innings. The only hit that Moore allowed was a Chris Colabello single on a groundball down the third base line that just never went foul. That was it. Moore did walk 3 batters, showing inconsistent control once again, but he struck out 5 and got his other 4 outs on the ground, not giving Twins a chance as long as he stayed anywhere near the zone. Had Moore’s control clicked as the game progressed, he could have been in for a special outing. Instead, we’ll never know, but the Rays offense and bullpen made sure there were no regrets.
In his first seven major league starts, Twins starter Andrew Albers had achieved his share of success. The 27 year old rookie left-hander had tossed 8.1 shutout inning s in his first start and a shutout in his second start, and after a stretch of up-and-down outings, he tossed 7 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays on September 8th, striking out a career-high five in the process. But Albers’ stuff never aligned with those type of results–he throws a fastball in just the 84-87 MPH range, a slider and changeup primarily in the high-70′s, and a mid-60′s curveball–and it was only a matter of time before the league figured him out. Albers struggled mightily in three of his seven starts, and the Rays were the latest team that were not fooled at all by what the lefty was throwing at them.
The Rays went down in order in the first inning, but they got a little fortunte in their favor to begin the 2nd inning, and that got them going. Wil Myers hit a tapper towards right field that fell for a double, and he advanced to third on a James Loney groundout before scoring on a Sean Rodriguez sac fly. The following inning, the Rays had just one in with two outs, but Evan Longoria got him home and a double into the right corner to make it 2-0 Rays. Then in the 4th, right before the rain, a Yunel Escobar RBI single and a Jose Lobaton sac fly gave the Rays a 4-0 lead. Albers went 4 innings allowing 4 runs on 6 hits, striking out just 1 while walking 1.
Following the rain delay of two hours and four minutes, the names change for the results persisted for the Tampa Bay Rays. Brandon Gomes replaced Matt Moore for the 4th and threw a perfect frame, and then Jamey Wright worked around the double allowed by Wesley Wright in the 5th to go 1.1 perfect innings, striking out 3 of the 4 batters he faced. Then Roberto Hernandez used a double play to work around a hit and a walk in the 7th before Cesar Ramos allowed just 1 hit in the final 2 innings to seal the Rays’ victory. While this was happening, Desmond Jennings broke out at the plate against the Twins’ relief corps, drilling RBI doubles in the 6th and 8th innings (with a third run scoring on an error) to give the Rays the 7-0 advantage that would prove to be the final. With the Rays facing plenty of turmoil in recent weeks, the rain right as they were playing their could have been the start of disaster. But the Rays have turned a corner, and they were not going to let something as minor as that get in their way.
For the Rays, these games against the Twins were a nice repreive from a tough schedule, but they couldn’t take anything for granted–they needed to take care of business to stay ahead in the AL Wild Card race, with the Cleveland Indians and others in hot pursuit. Luckily, that is exactly what they have done. They will hope to finish off the sweep on Sunday at 2:10 PM, with David Price going up against another Twins rookie, Pedro Hernandez.