The match-up looked rough on paper. Matt Moore - in his second major-league start - was slated to face an explosive, predominately right-handed Texas Rangers lineup in Game 1 of the American League divisional series. Starting with Ian Kinsler at the top of the order, the rest of the lineup featured several other notable right-handed batters like Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz. The Ballpark in Arlington is also favorable to RHB (just ask Kelly Shoppach). Somewhere in between all that right-handed goodness was the 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton.
We soon found out that Matt Moore does not care much for paper match-ups. The left-hander was dominant in his seven innings on Friday - mostly against the five righties that brought concern when he was announced as the starter. The quintet combined to go 0-14 with five strikeouts. In fact, the only hits allowed by Moore – and in the game – came off the left-handed bat of Hamilton.
Similar to David Price, Moore’s approach revolved around his high-octane fastball. The fastball was so good, he rarely needed to use his secondary offerings; surprising considering how well the Rangers do against the heat. Then again, seeing a pitcher like Moore throwing 95-98 mph from the left side is not a commonality, and certainly not in seven-inning doses. It also helps that the Texas hitters had never faced the 22-year-old before.
The fastball diet was particularly effective against the "five Longorias" in the Texas lineup. Combined, they saw 60 of Moore’s 98 pitches. An overwhelming majority (77%) of those pitches were fastballs. The strategy was employed early as he retired Kinsler to led off the bottom of the first inning. Kinsler saw nine pitchers in that at-bat. All nine pitches were fastballs.
Moore looked his best against two dangerous lefty mashers: Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz. Each slugger struck out twice and each on different pitches. Napoli went down swinging on a changeup and had another swinging strikeout on a breaking ball. Each of Cruz's strikeouts also came on a whiff. In the first inning, he swung and missed a mid-90s fastball and later came up empty swinging at a breaking ball.
The off-speed pitch was seldom used by Moore; however, Michael Young saw a change-up in each of his three at-bats. Their final encounter ended on one pitch - a change-up. Adrian Beltre, on the other hand, saw nothing but the hard stuff. He was retired on three fastballs the first time up, and two fastballs the second. Moore needed just one fastball to put him away the third time.
The antithesis of pitching backwards, Moore's method of collecting outs is the the opposite of what we will see from James Shields in Game 2. Meanwhile, considering the effectiveness of the fastball against the Rangers right-handed batters, we may see a similar attack attempted by David Price. At any rate, this Moore kid looks like a keeper.