Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Moore 5-0 as Rays rout White Sox

CHICAGO — Matt Moore started again for the Rays, and he won again, his five in April matching all kinds of marks and milestones, including a team record for any month, Boston's Clay Buchholz for the major-league lead and the season total of the Marlins.

And though Moore didn't look like he needed much help in the 10-4 win over the White Sox, he got plenty, as his teammates racked up season highs with the 10 runs and 19 hits, including a career-high-tying four each from Kelly Johnson and Evan Longoria.

Moore talked a lot about the specifics of Saturday's win, how he mixed his fastball and his breaking ball, how he battled back from behind in counts, how he adjusted after a leadoff walk to strike out the next six, how much his teammates have done when he's on the mound.

But the 5-0 start, and the almost equally impressive 1.13 ERA, especially for a pitcher previously known as a slow starter?

"I've never done this before in the beginning of a season," Moore said. "So right now I'll just try to stay hungry and keep feeding off that last one, keep riding the snowball."

Those watching him, though, were plenty impressed.

"Same thing as every night he pitches, it's special," Johnson said. "He gets a lot of uncomfortable swings. Guys just don't time him. His fastball looks like 110 (mph) sometimes. Just so poised and smooth."

Moore didn't allow a hit until Adam Dunn's solo homer with two out in the fourth and only three for the night and finished with nine strikeouts, the only blemish that he lasted only six innings.

Though he fell one short of the team mark for consecutive strikeouts — held not by David Price or James Shields or Scott Kazmir but Andy Sonnanstine (June 2007) — Moore did earn a few entries in the record book.

His five wins are the most by a Ray in April and match the most in any month (done also by Price and Kazmir), and his 1.13 ERA is the best for April and second-best for any month (behind Jeff Niemann's 1.06 in July 2011).

And he became the third American League pitcher under age 24 to go 5-0 in April, joining Greg Swindell (1988) and a chap named Babe Ruth (1917).

"Five-and-oh right now is pretty awesome, there's no getting around that," manager Joe Maddon said. "Of course he can't sustain all of this, but I'm telling you, there is more in Moore. As his fastball continues to go where he wants it to go, heads up. He could stay hot for a long time."

The bats were certainly hot Saturday, helped by Sox starter Gavin Floyd leaving in the third with an elbow issue, and the Rays (10-13, 3-9 on the road) will hope to carry over what was a team effort, as red-hot James Loney had three more hits to increase his average to .379 and Longoria and Ben Zobrist, who got them started with a two-run homer that was his first since opening day, showed the benefit of the early extra batting practice they took Saturday.

The big night allowed the Rays to show off their new team gesture, players who get a big hit doing a modified version of the arrow shot by closer Fernando Rodney at the end of games.

It looked new Saturday, but apparently it just hadn't been as prominent.

"It's been going on for a little bit," Johnson said. "We just haven't had 19 hits. A lot of target practice tonight."

 
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