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Forget his lawnboy looks, Moore mows hitters.


His face is young, impossibly young. Look at him, and you would swear he is 22 going on 17. A major-league pitcher? Really? He looks more like the kid who mows your yard.

His eyes are soft, and he still has a teenager's laugh, and he is still waging a fight against the acne on his forehead. A professional athlete? Honestly? He looks more like that photo you saw of Miley Cyrus' prom date in the latest Teen Beat.

Ah, but check out the age on that wonderful left arm of Matt Moore.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a grown-up.

Moore defied the calendar — and for that matter, his opponent — Friday afternoon. At the tender age of 22 years, 104 days, in his second major-league start, on his largest stage, Moore managed to control one of baseball's most dangerous hitting lineups. He bedazzled the Rangers, throwing a two-hit shutout over seven innings in a 9-0 victory in Game 1 of the Rays' AL Division Series.

This does not happen. Not in baseball, not in the playoffs. Kids don't just show up at the park and make powerful hitters look weak. For one thing, most teams wouldn't let a 22-year-old near the kind of pressure that can eat a guy's career.

The Rays did, and by the end, the only question was why it took them so long to decide to turn him loose.

"Why not?" Marty Moore said. "He's done it everywhere he's been."

It was late in the evening, and the Moore family lined the white wall outside the team's clubhouse, their glow lighting the corridor. They had driven 11 hours to get here, to watch Matt throw. Everyone seemed happy. No one seemed surprised.

"It was almost surreal, watching him," said Marty, who coached his son for years. "I was watching, and his face never changed. He never choked a ball. He looked calm. He's never been one of those pitchers you see on his knees with his hands on his head."

For the rest of us, this was fairly incredible stuff. The Rangers have spent most of the season savaging opposing pitchers. They led the American League with a .283 team batting average, and they were home in a hitter's park (where they hit .298), and they were second in home runs and first in fewest strikeouts. They can club, these guys.

But not Friday.

Not against Moore.

"He was outstanding," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "You can't be more impressed. What he did tonight was spectacular.

"You really have to have faith in his makeup. A lot of times you see young pitchers who come up with this great stuff. You'll see 95, 97, 98 (mph). You'll see a decent curveball. Or a great changeup. But you have to be able to handle the moment. You have to have the right pulse or the right heartbeat. He does. He just does."

At an age you would have expected nerves, he was as calm as an afternoon nap. In a game you feared the pressure, he instead placed it on the Rangers hitters. In a series where you noticed his age, he made hardened veterans look as if they were the rookies.

"I mean, I don't know that he's old enough to understand how well these guys hit at this park," catcher Kelly Shoppach said.

Watching Moore, it was hard to believe that a year ago he was watching the Rays' playoff on television. He was fresh off his own baseball season, which was spent in Class A, in which he had a record of 6-11. In those days, no one would have expected this.

Still, there is an uncommon maturity to Moore. He walks onto the mound as if it his property. He never seems in a hurry. He never seems to sweat.

That's why the Rays decided to start him Friday. The safe choice would have been to give the ball to Wade Davis, who started 29 games this year. After all, Davis won 11 games. After all, he won a playoff game in Texas last year.

The safe choice isn't always the right choice, however. Give the Rays credit for making a bolder selection. In his other start this year, Moore had shut down a strong Yankees' lineup. Why not give him a chance here?

Tell most rookies they are starting a playoff game, and their hands will shake as if they are playing the piano. Not Moore's. He slept fine Thursday night, even though a local lightning storm knocked out the cable TV in his room and he had to rely on Pandora radio to put him to sleep.

"I didn't want to let myself get nervous," Moore said. "Every time I thought about the game, I tried to think about the plan."

For Moore, it worked well. Before Friday, no other pitcher in the history of the game had started a playoff game with only one regular-season start. The last time an American League team started a younger pitcher in its first postseason game, it was Oakland's Vida Blue (who was 22 years, 67 days) in 1971. Blue lost. The last time a National League team started a younger pitcher in its first postseason game, it was Rick Ankiel (21 years, 76 days) in 2000 for the Cardinals. He was chased in the third inning.

This? This turned out better.

He is going to be something, Moore. You can feel it already. He has the arm, and he has the composure, and it is going to be fun to watch him grow up.

"He doesn't even look like a man yet," Marty Moore said, grinning. "He still looks like a boy. He might get better."

Yeah, he has heard before that he looks like the Vincent Chase character from Entourage. He plays video games, particularly Call of Duty. His favorite song is Mirror's Edge by Mike Posner. In other words, yeah, the guy is young.

"I keep hoping my facial hair will come in a little thicker and take care of that," Moore said, laughing.

That's okay. The history of the Texas Rangers is filled with stories about young men with unblinking stares and quick draws. Usually, they call them "The Kid."

Want to know how perfect Moore's day was? During the game, a fan swiped David Price's toy figurine of his dog, Astro.

Guess who had an extra one with him? That's right, Moore.

"Matt Moore saved the day twice," pitcher James Shields said.

"Go figure," said Price.

Who needs experience?

No pitcher had started a postseason game before the Rays' Matt Moore with one or fewer previous big-league starts. Fewest career starts for Game 1 postseason starters:

PitcherStartsPlayoff debut
Matt Moore, Tampa Bay1Sept. 30, 2011
Joe Black,

2Oct. 1, 1952
Bob Wolcott, Seattle6Oct. 10, 1995

Source: Elias Sports Bureau

Forget his lawnboy looks, Moore mows hitters. 09/30/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 1, 2011 1:16pm]
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