Friday, November 24, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays beat Rangers 2-0, avoid sweep

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Staring at the possibility of a troubling sweep by those annoying Rangers, the Rays weren't looking too good Wednesday afternoon. The conditions were raw, their starting pitcher was having trouble finding the plate and their offense was again all but missing.

But they showed something, and may have found something in a somewhat disappointing opening stretch, by pulling out the 2-0 victory before heading off in their new team letterman jackets for Boston.

"That's the kind of game you've got to win," manager Joe Maddon said. "A getaway day like this, having lost in two in a row, some tough moments here, also. That just showed the resiliency of our group and the fact that these guys do not give in."

At the least, the win should give them a reason to feel better about themselves at 4-5 as their offense hasn't been as productive as planned, the starting pitching not as sharp and even their coming together as a team slower than anticipated.

Add in some frustrating losses and bad breaks/calls, and the potential was there for "It's early" to become "It's a problem," especially with today off before playing four games with the Red Sox then three in Baltimore.

"The last two days were tough; those were tough losses for us," rightfielder Ben Zobrist said. "Getting a win going into the off day certainly feels a lot better, albeit how cold it was and we didn't necessarily kill the ball. But we got the 'W' and that was important."

Starter Matt Moore was central to both sides of the narrative. He was very good in holding the Rangers without a hit into the fifth and allowing only one overall while striking out five, but he wasn't very good in walking a big-league-high six (matching his minor-league most) and pitching himself out of the game by getting to 106 in the sixth.

The problems, which Maddon attributes to youthfulness, are occasional breakdowns in his delivery.

"He'll get into a really nice tempo, is the best word," Maddon said. "Almost like a good golf swing, he'll get this good thing going. Then all of a sudden that tempo evades him, there's a little bit of quickness at the end of his delivery or a little lagging of the arm. … But when he's right and that thing comes together, it's beautiful to watch."

Moore, 25, had a few answers: That he loses focus for brief stretches, that he had more than usual movement on his two-seam fastball which put him behind in counts, that he was feeling "really competitive" and "jumping off the hill a little bit."

On the other hand, he is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA.

Moore's early departure forced Maddon to depart from his preferred bullpen formula, but Cesar Ramos (thanks to an interference call at second by umpire Marty Foster, of Monday's controversy), Jake McGee then Joel Peralta all eventually got out of jams. Zobrist helped out with a strike to the plate to end the eighth, and Fernando Rodney finished for his first save, and his first arrow shot of the season.

The offense wasn't much: One run when Zobrist grounded into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded (on three walks by otherwise sharp Derek Holland) in the third, extending their season-opening streak of futility to 0-for-11 with the sacks full, the other on a sac fly by Evan Longoria after Desmond Jennings doubled to open the fifth and Sean Rodriguez moved him to third.

"We did not play our perfect game in lot of different ways, but we played with kind of an attitude to win," Maddon said. "We had a pretty good attitude about us in the dugout. Guys were loose and focused, and I kind of liked that approach."

Given how things had been going, that could be a victory in itself.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

   
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