When a friend of mine offered me two ground-level box seat tickets behind third base and a parking pass, I thought for sure it was a good omen. This would be the outing in which Matt Moore would find his game and the Tampa Bay Rays would find a way to score enough runs to win. I was wrong on both counts.
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After Moore looked dominant in striking out David Lough on three pitches to begin the game, the first bad sign was when the Orioles’ Chris Davis, who beat the Rays with a grand slam last night, drew a walk. Manny Machado proceeded to pop out, but then Adam Jones dribbled a grounder through the infield for a hit. It looked to me that Moore could have fielded the ball, but who knows what happens at game speed. Then with Davis at second and Jones on first, J.J. Hardy drove in Davis with a single past a diving Jake Elmore at third base. Nolan Reimold then hit a hard liner to right center that bounced off the glove of Brandon Guyer for a two-run double.
Moore got unlucky in three different ways that inning: 1) Elmore was at third with Evan Longoria at DH, 2) Guyer was playing instead of Kevin Kiermaier, who was on the bench because a lefty was pitching for Baltimore, and 3) Jones’ batted ball was a complete jam shot, but with the Rays’ infield shifted the opposite way. If any of those three had been different, Moore could have escaped the inning with one run or even zero.
In the top of the fourth, the Orioles struck again, with a two-run home run by Caleb Joseph making the score 5-0. The blast came immediately after another soft hit turned into a single. Moore certainly had his tough breaks, but once again, he didn’t look good as he allowed 5 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings. He did strike out 4 while walking 2 and forced a 5-2 groundout to flyout ratio, but he continues to lack confidence and shows no ability at all to locate his breaking ball for a strike. Of the 14 times he threw it, 11 of them ended up out of the zone, and that simply doesn’t cut it.
Baltimore recognized that Moore couldn’t hit his spots with his curve, so they took almost every single one, contributing to Moore getting behind in the count and letting the O’s hitters sit dead red. The changeup looked very good and the fastball had its moments–the stuff is still there for Moore. Even with his curveball making looking as bad as it ever has, he still struck out J.J. Hardy on a nasty hook. However, he simply is not a big league-quality starting pitcher right now, and the Rays need to start considering other options.
The Rays suddenly found some life in the bottom of the fourth as Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe hit back-to-back solo home runs off Wei-Yin Chen. Both balls were solidly struck and the crowd of over 16,000 was on its feet screaming. Joey Butler made it three straight hard hits with a double only to get stranded at second base, but in the bottom of the fifth, the Rays threatened again.
Tim Beckham led off with fly ball to right field that looked like it was going foul and would be caught. I guess Beckham thought the same thing as he trotted to first base. We were both wrong as the ball dropped in fair and Beckham ended up at second base. Could he have been at third if he would have hustled out of the box? We’ll never know. The Rays then loaded the bases but Steven Souza Jr. struck out looking and Longoria made an easy out. Another opportunity went by the wayside.
That, for all intents and purposes, was the end of the game. The only two remaining bright spots for the Rays were three innings of electric relief pitching by Alex Colome (3 innings, 2 hits, 0 walks, and 4 strikeouts) and a laser throw from Kiermaier, in the game after pinch-hitting, to throw out Reimold at the plate by a mile. The loss drops the Tampa Bay Rays to 49-51, and they will be welcome David Price and the Tigers into town tomorrow, assuming Price is still with their team.