ST. PETERSBURG — Technically, Thursday wasn't perfect for Matt Moore. After retiring the first 11 Twins, he did allow a walk. Then he gave up his first two hits in the sixth, and he only lasted one out into the eighth of the 4-3 victory that extended the Rays' season-best winning streak to eight.
But after what was, arguably, the best performance of his 13 wins this season — "no-hit stuff," Rays manager Joe Maddon swore — Moore got the thrilling news that he had been added to the American League team for Tuesday's All-Star Game in New York.
"It means a lot. My second year in the big leagues, if you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have just been happy to be here," Moore, 24, said.
"So for the way things are going right now, I'm ecstatic about being a part of the festivities and being at the game with the best players in the game. It's definitely something I'm looking forward to. I'm very excited to see what it's all about. So I'm kind of left without words."
As supposedly secret and bureaucratic as the announcement from Major League Baseball was about being selected to replace injured Rangers righty Yu Darvish, Moore actually was still pitching when he got word from teammate David Price, who is probably the last person to tell about a surprise party.
Moore was grabbing a sip of water in a room behind the Rays dugout before the eighth inning when Price said, "Let's go, All-Star, or something like that" as he walked away.
As piqued as Moore's curiosity was, he tried to stay focused on the 4-1 game, getting one out then allowing a walk and a single. The bullpen then took over and, despite Alex Torres allowing a hit that scored two, hung on.
As Moore headed up the clubhouse, Price came right out — shucking any protocol — and congratulated him. So when pitching coach Jim Hickey summoned Moore to Maddon's office after the game, Moore felt pretty good, joking, "Am I being sent down?"
But Moore wasn't prepared for what happened after Maddon and executive vice president Andrew Friedman made it official, walking out of the door and into a group celebration, teammates dousing him with water and beer and cheers.
"I haven't had that feeling before where everyone's in the corner on me," Moore said. "I was just informed I made the All-Star team for my first time, and I can't really explain what I was feeling over there. But it was an excitement, a giddiness I haven't had in a really long time, if ever."
Making the day even more interesting was it was the second time Moore had an unusual feeling. After a poor warmup, he took the mound and as the ball repeatedly went where he threw it and the outs piled up quickly, he, too, wondered what might be possible.
"I had a feeling that you only run into every once in a while," Moore said.
The chance for a no-hitter ended with two outs in the sixth, when Brian Dozier doubled. Then suddenly, the 1-0 lead was gone, too, as Jamey Carroll singled, ending Moore's streak of 221/3 scoreless innings.
But the Rays (53-40) rallied as they have so many times during this run of winning 15 of 18. Luke Scott and Evan Longoria, who had gone a career-long 14 games without an extra-base hit, delivered back-to-back homers. Later, rookie Wil Myers singled in his second run of the day.
And the bullpen, even with Fernando Rodney unavailable, finished, Joel Peralta getting them out of the eighth and Jake McGee getting his first big-league save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
As deserving as Moore seemed of a trip to New York in pitching well enough to win 12 of his first 18 starts, Thursday's three-hit, 10-strikeout performance proved a fitting illustration.
"This was like wrapping it all into a nice little package because there's always been these little odds and ends that have been missing," Maddon said. "Today everything looked right. That was an All-Star pitching out there."