Last spring training, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon coined a new word: “morementum.” After the Rays’ 6-1 win on Monday over the Philadelphia Phillies, maybe “moorementum” would be a more appropriate spelling.
Matt Moore started for the Rays in the game and it looked like things might get bad when he got into a bases loaded jam in the first inning. Instead, Moore escaped trouble and wound up going 1.2 shutout innings allowing 2 hits and a walk while striking out 2 and getting a trio of outs on the ground. Moore sat at 91 to 93 MPH with noticeably less effort than he was putting in last spring, and he also threw several effective sliders. Moore’s start could have gone better, but it was nice to see him stay composed under pressure and get the Rays going to begin the game.
C.J. Riefenhauser followed and went 1.1 innings allowing no runs on a hit and a walk. Riefenhauser’s fastball was not overpowering at 90 MPH, but he showed an extremely slider, doing a great job both using it as a chase pitch and spotting it for strikes. The 4th inning did not go as well, though, as Heath Bell allowed a run on 3 hits, and for a long while it looked like that one run might be enough for Philadelphia to win as the Rays managed just 2 hits through 6 innings. But the Rays bullpen kept going strong, and the offense eventually came.
Brandon Gomes looked extremely impressive in the 6th, using a newfound cutter taught by him to Jamey Wright to rack up a pair of strikeouts while working around a walk. Gomes’ cutter features sharp late action and provides a potential swing-and-miss pitch against batters of both sides. Gomes has allowed just a .936 OPS to lefties in his major league career, and if he can change that, suddenly he is a much more valuable pitcher. Gomes’ chances for a roster spot to begin the season are long because he has an option remaining, but if cutter keeps looking as good as it did today, the Rays may have to make room.
In the 6th inning, Justin Christian helped Josh Lueke to a perfect frame with a great catch at the wall in left field. But Christian had an even bigger contribution in store for the 7th inning. Christian drew a walk before Jeremy Moore drilled a double, advancing him to 3rd. Then on Vince Belnome‘s groundball to first base, Christian avoided Lou Marson‘s tag at first base to score the tying run and get the Rays exhilarated. As it turned out, that run was only the start as Ray Olmedo came through with a 2-run single and Cole Figueroa laced a 2-run double to give the Rays a 5-1 lead before the inning was through. Then Jeremy Moore gave the game an exclamation point in the 8th inning, slamming an opposite field home run to finish the offensive outburst that he had started. Moore, now 26, became a touted prospect at one time thanks to impressive power and speed. On Monday, the power was as present as ever, making it clear that Moore’s potential is not all gone quite yet.
Merrill Kelly earned the win in the game for the Rays, retiring the first five batters he faced and finishing with just a hit and a walk allowed in 2 innings of work. Kelly showed good command of his fastball to go along with a few good sliders, and that was without his best pitch, his changeup, being much of a factor. And Kirby Yates finished it off with a perfect 9th, striking out 1 in the process. Several pitchers were outstanding for the Rays, and Jeremy Moore and the offense found themselves before it was too late to help the Rays to their second straight victory. The Boston Red Sox host the Rays in Fort Myers tomorrow at 1:05 PM with Chris Archer making his spring debut.