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Tampa Bay Rays Game 135: Two-Out Hits and the Bullpen

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Saturday’s Tampa Bay Rays game was far from perfect. Evan Longoria left the contest with what looks to be a minor injury, a bruise on his forearm, and Matt Moore couldn’t complete five innings in his return to the major leagues. On the other hand, Moore showed positive signs, the offense came through in the clutch, and the bullpen was able to work out of some jams as the Rays beat the New York Yankees 3-2.

Moore finished with 4.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2 and hitting a batter. He tossed shutout ball through the first 4 innings before New York got to him in the fifth, with Brandon Gomes helping him escape the frame. The Rays were hoping that Moore would be a little bit better than that, but this game was still a vast improvement over how badly he had looked before, and there were also some great signs under the surface.

Moore’s average four-seam fastball velocity in this game was 93.5 MPH according to Brooks Baseball, his best among his big league time this season. He only reached a 93.0 average in one of his six starts before being demoted to the minor leagues, dipping down as low as 91.77 MPH in his fifth start. Beyond that, Moore was throwing the fastball for strikes, 64.2% of the time to be exact, and, more importantly, those strikes were quality strikes. He avoided the middle for the most part and was even able to force some groundballs.

Moore had issues the second time through the order as his curveball and changeup were not sharp, but the progress from his fastball was nice to see and he could pitch very well if the secondary offerings come back. His curveball did have his moments as he forced 2 whiffs with it and spotted it for 4 called strikes after he had huge difficulty throwing it in the zone earlier this season. Even so, both pitches need to be better than they were in this game, but given that they looked good in Durham, hopefully we will see that in Moore’s next start.

The Rays’ offense came in the second and third innings. Kevin Kiermaier delivered a two-out single to score Logan Forsythe in the former frame before Asdrubal Cabrera ensured that the Rays  didn’t blow a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the third by drilling a two-out single to bring home two runs. The Rays could have scored more, leaving two baserunners on in the seventh and stranding runners at second base in the third and eighth innings, but those two hits were nice and thankfully the pitching did the rest.

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After Gomes recorded his one out in the fifth, Xavier Cedeno was dominant, giving up just a walk in 1.2 hitless innings, striking out 4. Alex Colome had his issues in the eighth, allowing two singles and a walk with two outs, but Didi Gregorius‘ liner ended up in Logan Forsythe’s glove to end the frame. For once, it was Colome and not Brad Boxberger who made Rays fans panic–Boxberger forced three weak flyballs in his 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save. Boxberger needs many more outings like this to restore the trust of Rays fans, but at the very least, it was nice to see that there was no carryover from his blown save in his previous appearance.

The win takes the Rays to 67-68 on the season, and they will hope to take two out of three from the Yankees tomorrow at 1:05 PM. Chris Archer will hope to show his ace form as he takes on Ivan Nova.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Why Brad Boxberger Has Fallen Off Part 2

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