Rays fans, and indeed most baseball fans, will never forget September 28, 2011, when Game 162 upsets changed the postseason lineup over night.
Two days later, the Rays enjoyed a performance that was just as impressive.
To start off the ALDS series in Texas, the the Tampa Bay Rays did Tampa Bay Rays things and kicked off the series with a starting pitcher who had just two weeks of major league experience. That pitcher was Joe Maddon’s not-so-secret weapon, lefty phenom Matt Moore.
With the benefit of hindsight, we may forget just how much promise Moore had shown. Among the top prospects in all of baseball with Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, he had just finished up a head-turning season in which he rose from Double-A up to the majors, posting stellar numbers at each stop along the way.
His late 2011 major league debut did not disappoint, with his fastball sitting in the mid-high 90s accompanied by sharp offspeed stuff. Even his teammates realized that someone special had joined them:
“Watching him was great,” veteran reliever Joel Peralta said. “First two pitches and it’s like, ‘Daddy’s here.’” - mlb.com
Nonetheless, how crazy was it to give him the ball to start off a playoff series against the powerful Texas Rangers? Moore had pitched just 9.1 — 9.1! - major league innings, which included a grand total of one start.
He took the mound, and he dominated.
That afternoon in Texas, the 22 year old southpaw delivered seven shutout innings against the potent Texas offense. He gave up just two - two! - hits, both to Josh Hamilton. He racked up six strikeouts and walked two. The Rays would go on to win, 9-0.
Although Moore was a good pitcher in 2012 and 2013, his performance probably fell short of the expectations that were raised by his jaw-dropping 2011 ALDS start. After losing time to Tommy John surgery, he has never regained the high velocity and overall dominance that marked his early years.
Rays fans, however, can look back on his September 30, 2011 start as one of the franchise’s best memories.