Rays fans everywhere were eager to see how Matt Moore would perform in his first postseason start--his second ever in the Bigs--and the rookie did not disappoint tonight. For seven shutout innings, Moore baffled the potent Ranger lineup with his 97MPH fuzz and mixed in a few well timed sliders and change-ups to cause even more fits. Even the TBS announcers were flummoxed by the young'un, claiming for several innings that it MUST be the shadows playing tricks on the Texas hitters. Well, the shadows covered the stadium soon enough and Moore just kept on sittin' 'em down.
Moore pitched seven innings, allowed no runs on just two Josh Hamilton hits, two walks, a hit batsman, and K'd six. He induced thirteen swinging strikes on 98 pitches and averaged a tick over 94 on the fastball. Home plate umpire Mark Carlson's zone was a bit hit-and-miss this evening. Moore was given a few random calls outside the zone, but was denied on several clear strikes as well. Even when he did something 'bad' like walk a hitter, you could see that Moore was really on his game. I think this AB perfectly shows Moore's day:
Even though he didn't get some close calls, Moore effectively pitched at the very fringes of the strikezone. This AB didn't work out for Moore, but you could tell that, for most of his day, he was hitting his spots with precision. That's not to say he didn't leave a few balls over the heart during the day, but, even then, when you have 97 coming from the left, you can do that a few times and get away with it.
On the other side of the ball, Rays fans were treated to a double showing of the Shopshank Redemption (h/t FreeZo). The "Lefty Masher" was three-for-five this evening with all three hits coming from Rangers' starter C.J. Wilson. In the second inning, Shoppach singled on a soft liner to left that Craig Gentry "Crawford'd" as he slid to make a play. Shop would score on a Matt Joyce seeing-eye-single into right. The ShopVac would make his biggest contribution in the next inning, as after an Evan Longoria single and a Ben Zobrist drag bunt he homered to deep center on a first-pitch fastball from Wilson. The ball was caught on a nice running catch by a Rangers' fan on the grass batter's eye. He relayed the throw home, but the speedy Shoppach was able to make it home in time.
But Shoppach wasn't done yet. In the fifth inning, after a rare Adrian Beltre error on a Johnny Damon grounder extended the inning, Shoppach worked a good AB and crushed a hung slider into the left field stands. That ticked the score to 8-0 and basically ended the day for Wilson.
Notes after the jump...
- Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the actual first runs the Rays put on the board today courtesy of a Johnny Damon two-run homer in the second. The homer was 'Typical Damon' as he lofted what seemed like a soft fly to right that just kept on carrying.
- The second hit off Matt Moore was a double from Josh Hamilton. This was a ball that probably should have been caught, but Matt Joyce broke in a few steps and then had to scamper back as the ball flew over his head. Not trying to throw Joyce under the bus, just highlighting how good Moore really was on the day. Karma would get Hamilton in the end, however, as he would get hung up between second and third and tagged out on a heads-up play by Sean Rodriguez later in the inning.
- Later in the game, down eight runs, Josh Hamilton bunted with Elvis Andrus on first. No idea why this happened. On the other hand, Zobrist had a perfect bunt in the third that lead to a run, so maybe Hamilton was emulating him.
- Brandon Gomes and Wade Davis closed out the last two innings in perfect fashion. Nothing to see here.
- Tomorrow's game comes at you at 7:00 PM on TNT. James Shields faces off against Derek Holland to see if the Rays can take a 2-0 lead in the series. Please wish C.J. Wilson some sweet dreams, because no man--friend or foe--should have to deal with Kelly Shoppach haunting his dreams.
- By the way, "The Shopshank Redemption" is begging to be (photo)Shopped. Who's going to step up?