Rays have allowed 3 hits or fewer in three straight games, matching the longest streak in the American League since 1975.
After a frustrating first two weeks of the season the Rays have really turned it around these last four games. Sure, the last four games are also a small sample size, but the team is obviously playing better -- much closer to their ability than the 2-7 road trip showed.
While Ryan Roberts was great, tonight begins and ends with Matt Moore. The Yankees didn't exactly roll out what you would call a "good offense" but Moore was nonetheless terrific. It didn't seem likely that Moore would finish the seventh inning, but then he did in just seven pitches. It didn't seem likely that he would finish the eighth inning, but then he did in just 12 pitches, setting a new career high (117). All told, Moore would finish with those eight innings having allowed two hits, one run, three walks while striking out nine.
His relied on his bread and butter pitches, the fastball and changeup, throwing each for a strike over 75% of the time. Against the Yankee's left-handed hitters the plan was simple, pound them with fastballs. Of the 50 pitches he threw to lefty hitters 39 were fastballs. He threw the changeup just twice and got zero whiffs, as opposed to 15 times against righties with six whiffs. For the most part he worked away to both lefties and righties and was able to get some pretty amazing movement on his changeup down in the zone. Take the first three at bats of Vernon Wells.
If you remove the scoreboard in the top left corner you'd have no idea what inning this was from:
That may be one of the most pathetic swings I've ever seen.
The only blemish on Moore's night was a hanging breaking back with two strikes that Robinson Cano laughed into the right field seats. His ERA actually increased from 1.00 to 1.04, but he became the first Rays pitcher to win his first four starts of a season. Like, ever. With James Shields in Kansas City the Rays were counting on Moore making a leap. This is exactly what they had in mind.
Moore's night was made easier by the Rays' offense, which came through with five runs of support, four coming in the first inning. After a Desmond Jennings strikeout, Ryan Roberts took C.C. Sabathia deep to left field. Evan Longoria singled to center and first basemen Sean Rodriguez brought him home with a triple to right. The red hot Yunel Escobar unloaded an opposite field homerun -- his second in as many nights. He and Roberts became the first pair of middle infielders to homer in the same inning in Rays history. Somewhere Brendan Harris and Josh Wilson are pissed. Roberts would add another home run in the third inning and a single later on to cap off a great night at the plate.
Pitch f/x chart via BrooksBaseball and GIF via @bubbaprog