ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Moore's Tuesday outing, microcosmic of his season, is beyond any standard baseball description.
Odd is too simple, weird too easy, unusual too basic.
Abnormal? Inexplicable? Schizophrenic?
"Bipolar, I guess," Moore said.
Consider just what took place as the Rays scored a 5-1 victory over Toronto, improving to 41-37 and posting their first three-game winning streak of the month.
Good: Moore held the Blue Jays to one run and four hits.
Bad: Moore threw a career-high 120 pitches in only six innings.
Good: Moore struck out a career high-tying 11.
Bad: Moore walked a career high-tying six.
Good and bad and good: Moore earned his 10th win overall and second straight, which followed a brutal 0-3, 13.86 stretch, which followed a dazzling 8-0, 2.18 start.
"Anytime there's six walks and I can get through the sixth inning," Moore said, "it's a pretty unusual thing to happen."
Moore wasn't the whole story as thunder boomed outside Tropicana Field and the lights flickered a few times over the gathering of 12,041.
Rookie Wil Myers came through with an RBI single after another intentional walk, extending his hitting streak to eight. James Loney had three more hits off left-handers, raising his left-on-left average to .380. Third baseman Evan Longoria made several dazzling plays, highlighted by a leaping catch of a liner to end the seventh.
And catcher Jose Molina again used his speed and deft sliding ability to score and spark a three-run fourth.
With the score 1-1 and the bases loaded, Sean Rodriguez lofted a fly to right and Molina — who boasted last week in Boston of his "Matrix move" — raced, as much as he can "race," home as Jose Bautista made a strong throw. He somehow again avoided the tag, which J.P Arencibia didn't apply with much vigor.
"I give everything out there like I've told you many, many times. I wish I run like Ichiro, but I'm not. Or I wish I run like (Jose Lobaton) … " Molina said.
"I knew I was going. He didn't look like he was going to tag me hard, he just felt like it was an easy out or something. I think he thought I was going to give up easy. So I just did one of those slides, like you guys said, Matrix kind of. I don't have another word for it, but I call it lucky."
Manager Joe Maddon said he was hoping Bautista's bullet was a bit off target to help Molina's bid. "It was definitely slow motion," Maddon said. "It's hard to avoid the jet-wash when it occurs."
Moore's problem was again a lack of command, as 50 of his 120 pitches were balls. But he improved after throwing 69 pitches in the first three innings, which is why Maddon left him out there. Plus, with Thursday's off day, all starters will have an extra day's rest.
"It was the bend-but-not-break, that kind of a situation," Maddon said. "He was obviously off in the beginning, and sometimes missing by a lot, but then all of a sudden, he found it. … He wavered a bit in the beginning but he did not cave in, and that's a beautiful thing about him. He has the stuff to pitch through the wild moments as long as they're not putting the ball in play hard."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]