Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Moore shutout gets Rays a half-game back of Red Sox

BOSTON — The actual pitching was obviously plenty good, Rays lefty Matt Moore throwing his first complete game, and a shutout at that, in picking up his major league-leading 14th victory in the 3-0 win over the Red Sox.

But what was most impressive to the Rays was how the 24-year-old All-Star did it.

"I really felt like he was in command of everything about himself in that game — his emotions, his breathing, his delivery, his command of his fastball," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Everything he did (Monday), he commanded it. It was the one-moment-at-a-time thing, and that's why he was so effective."

Given what Moore took into the game, facing the first-place, high-powered Red Sox in Fenway Park, and given how he came out of it, allowing only two singles and a walk while throwing 109 pitches, he couldn't have been more pleased.

"I think that's probably the best game I've ever thrown," he said.

What little help Moore needed came mostly from James Loney, who knocked in the first two runs as the red-hot Rays (59-41) moved to within a half-game of the American League East lead, continuing a run in which they have won six straight, 14 of 15, 18 of 20 and 21 of 25. They are only the fourth team in the past 10 years to win 18 or more times in any 20-game segment.

Moore's bullpen session was so bad he felt the need to assure catcher Jose Lobaton on the walk in: "I told Loby, 'We're going to be okay, I'll figure it out.' "

He did that, and more, relying primarily on his fastball, making quick work — only one inning of more than 14 pitches; 74 of 109 for strikes overall — of the majors' most patient team.

"I think they went in with the intention of making him throw pitches," Maddon said, "but he kept throwing strikes and he made them swing the bat because of that, and that's why it turned out so well."

Maddon theorized that there was a residual effect from being an All-Star, that it made Moore "feel stronger, better, more courageous, I-can-do-this kind of thoughts." But actually it was more a matter of being in the moment.

"He was concentrating on every pitch," Lobaton said, noting that the few times Moore shook him off they came back to the original call.

Pitching coach Jim Hickey was struck by Moore's composure, specifically his breathing, something he admittedly doesn't normally notice.

"It was very deliberate," Hickey said. "When he got to a 1-0 count, a 2-0 count, he just took a nice deep breath and made a nice pitch, where sometimes it has a tendency to get away from him a little bit."

Also noteworthy, Hickey said, was that Moore threw only two or three "non-competitive pitches — where the hitter didn't have to make a decision on them" and that the Boston batters hit only two to three balls solidly.

"That was pretty impressive," Hickey said. "It's a really, really good lineup and obviously a good team, and he basically shut them down."

Moore had pitched into the ninth inning once, during a no-hitter for Double-A Montgomery in 2011. When he headed to the mound for the ninth inning Monday, he fought back the urge to smile or even take in the moment, determined to keep doing what he had.

But, he allowed afterward, "It was a lot of fun."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

 
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