Sunday, November 19, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays top Red Sox; Moore improves to 7-0

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ST. PETERSBURG

The headlines from Tuesday's 5-3 win over the Red Sox belong to Matt Moore, who became the first American League pitcher to seven wins, and a perfect seven at that, and the first in Rays history to be 7-0.

"That's pretty incredible," manager Joe Maddon said.

But the story line of how the Rays got there was much more intriguing, a combination of a swing that wasn't supposed to be a swing, a dash to third by the least dashing of the Rays and a towering popup that somehow plopped down in front of first base and scored their last two runs.

"That's the Rays way, I guess," said Matt Joyce, who hit the popup. "The thing about it is we've had some things go against us. A lot of other teams have had bloop hits and what not. It's good karma. I think we've been playing good baseball. So I think we've earned it."

The bottom line was the Rays, before a Trop gathering of 15,227, won their sixth straight, extending their season-best streak and moving two games over .500, at 20-18, for the first time this year. A day that started with a four-piece band, Tampa's Sol Caribe, playing Latin dance music in their clubhouse — Maddon's latest keep-the-team loose gimmick — ended with the standard post-victory dance to Pitbull's Don't Stop the Party.

Down after Moore allowed a three-run first-inning homer to David Ortiz — after the Red Sox got a break when Dustin Pedroia's grounder hit third base and became a double — the Rays got all their runs in a bizarre fourth inning.

The rally came from simple beginnings: singles by Evan Longoria and James Loney, who increased his major-league-leading average to .381.

Luke Scott tried to check his swing on a 1-0 pitch from John Lackey but instead blooped the ball into shallow left for an excuse-me double, scoring one and putting men on second and third.

"That was a break we needed," catcher Jose Molina said.

Molina made it matter with the second of his three hits, singling in Loney and Scott to tie it at 3. Yunel Escobar followed with a single, setting up a mad dash as Molina tagged from second to third and Escobar moved to second.

"Sometimes you just have to take risks," Molina said. "Sometimes it's easier for me to score from third base than second. You have to take advantage of the situation. They know you're not the fastest, but you're not the stupidest, either."

That mattered because the Rays then got their biggest break, the popup by Joyce than went about 200 feet up into the white background of the Trop roof and only about 80 feet from home plate, but dropped in front of Sox first baseman Mike Napoli, with both runners scoring.

"Didn't make the play," Napoli said. "Saw it up, saw it and overran it."

It was a bit of a two-for-one break. Once the ball landed, Pedroia smartly waited for it roll foul, but it stopped just inside the line, a credit, Maddon said, to Dan Moeller's grounds crew.

"Just enough backspin to keep it fair," Joyce joked.

Overall, the win was the sum of many parts: Moore going six innings without his best fastball, the bullpen doing more work, timely hitting, some breaks and maybe some help from above.

"Here at the Trop, everybody knows that anything can happen with that roof," Joyce said. "It can be our best friend or our worst nightmare. We've seen both sides of it. (Tuesday) it went our way."

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