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Recap: Matt Moore Is Still a Rookie, But Rays Bats Are Above Replacement Level

Luke Scott hustles out of the box to pick up a double.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Luke Scott hustles out of the box to pick up a double. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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This was the Matt Moore we’ve been waiting for, until it wasn’t.

Moore’s fastball was dominant. He threw 64 fastballs, averaging over 97 mph and getting a swinging strike nearly 11% of the time. For his second pitch, he mixed in 24 changeups, which produced 5 whiffs (21%!). His curve was an afterthought, but an effective one nonetheless. Through four innings, the Blue Jays were befuddled by the young lefty’s mix of power and placement. And then in the fifth inning, Moore’s command left him.

He started by walking Colby Rasmus, a weak-hitting lefty who he should dominate (Do you remember when someone suggested trading Upton for Rasmus straight up and people said St. Louis wouldn’t even consider it?) on four straight fastballs out of the zone. Then he threw two more to Yan Gomes before finally getting a strike. Eventually, Moore induced a comebacker to the mound, and threw to second to get the lead runner, but Rasmus’s strong takeout slide on Elliot Johnson sapped the throw enough that Gomes was able to beat it out.

Next, Moore threw a nice, tight curve that Rajai Davis grounded to Elliot at short for the second straight double play opportunity, but Davis was far too fast. With the top of the order coming up, Moore made the obvious move and walked Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar to bring the force at home into play with Jose Bautista up to bat (against the league’s best hitter, you need every possible advantage).

First Bautista lined an 88 mph changeup foul down the first base line, Then he took a fastball up and away for a ball. On the 1-1 pitch, he lined yet another changeup into the right field seats. Something about this sequence stuck me as being odd, so I had a quick conversation with myself.

"Jose Bautista is an extreme pull hitter. Why is he lining these foul balls the opposite way?"

"He must be behind on Moore’s great fastball."

"Those weren’t fastballs. They were 88 mph changeups. He should be out in front of them."

"He’s not."

"Shit. Is Badenhop ready yet?"

The next pitch was an inside fastball that Bautista turned on and cranked well foul down the third base line, showing both that he has a ton of bat speed and that he was indeed recognizing velocity very well out of Moore’s hand. Three pitches later, Bautista got another changeup, scorching it through the shift to score two.

Moore next got Edwin Encarnacion to ground to third, but Sean Rodriguez sent his throw well wide of first for an E5. Zobrist was backing up the play and tried to throw home, but his throw was also offline, and there was no one backing up the play, so Bautista scored, and Encarnacion coasted into third. Badenhop replaced Moore and made Arrencibia look silly to end the inning.

If you didn’t watch the game, you probably think by now that the Rays lost tonight. Not the case! Happy bullets below the jump.

  • In the bottom of the first inning, B.J. Upton hit a double. During the next at bat, Drew Hutchinson tried to pick him off at second, but Upton got back easily. Rather than just throwing the ball back to the mound, Yunel Escobar tapped it on second base, surrepticiously dropped it, and faked the throw to Hutchinson. BJ, ever the aware baserunner, was not fooled, and he and Escobar shared a little laugh over that bit of gamesmanship. My question for all of those out there who have been watching baseball longer than I have: Have you ever seen this work in the majors? Have you seen a fielder fake the throw back to the mound and just hold onto it until the runner takes his lead and can be easily tagged out?
  • Hutchinson will be a pretty nice pitcher, someday. He has perhaps a slightly above average fastball, a good changeup, a still-developing breaking ball, and pinpoint command. But he’s a 21 year old rookie who, like his rotation mate Henderson Alvarez skipped AAA. Toronto will have a very solid rotation with these young arms in a few years, but it seems foolishly aggressive to me right now. Does anyone know Toronto’s thinking on this? I know that their AAA Las Vegas affiliate plays in an extreme hitters park, so I wonder if they think AAA would actually stunt their pitchers’ development.
  • Yan Gomes is the first Brazilian to play in the major leagues. He also became the first Brazilian to homer in the major leagues when he knocked a Wade Davis mistake pitch out to left-center field. If I were Brazilian, I’d think this was pretty cool. (I do in fact think this is pretty cool.)
  • In the bottom of the second, Luke Scott opend up the scoring by belting a 1-1 fastball the other way for his seventh homer on the year. Yes, he is 34. No, he is not done. If you believe that there is something to be learned from watching a player’s at bats, regardless of outcome, then there is no reason whatsoever to be concerned over Scott. The approach is there and the power is there. Scott also knocked a hard liner that hit about two feet down from the top of the right field wall. It was a laser, and Bautista could have thrown him out had there been anything wrong with his hamstring. Looks to me like Scott’s legs are back, too.
  • In the bottom of the third, Matt Joyce was hit by a pitch. The Rays lead the league in HBP, and Brian Anderson attributed it to them seeing a lot of pitches each plate appearance. It was a good thought on BA’s part, but it set off my inner fact-checker. In 2012, the Rays have seen 3.76 pitches per plate appearance, the fifth lowest number in the majors. If you look at total number of pitches, they rank 18 out of 30. Sorry, BA.
  • The newly added Drew Sutton had two hits, one of them a double. He also scored from third on a Chris Gimenez bouncer to Lawrie. It looks like Sutton has decent wheels.
  • In the bottom of the fourth, Carlos Pena, batting leadoff, hit a towering three run homer that landed on the roof of the Batter’s Eye Restaurant. The TV broadcast said it was measured at 452 feet, which (if that was true distance) would place it in the top 15 home runs this season as measured by Hit Tracker.
  • Upton also homered, continuing his much appreciated hot streak.
  • In the top of the eighth inning, with Peralta pitching and Lawrie on first, Gomes hit a liner to the alley that BJ was able to track down and catch. Lawrie, who had gone to second retreated back to first, but he took one little step [possibly] in the third base direction to set his feet before heading back. The umpires claimed that this step constituted going past the base, and that because he didn’t touch second again, he was out and the inning was over. Maybe this is the right call by the letter of the law, I don’t know. But I have to wonder if it would have been made on another player. I also wonder if it would have been made had MLB suspended Lawrie for longer after his helmet slamming incident. The guy better play by the letter of the law for awhile.