ANAHEIM, Calif. — As well as Matt Moore had pitched, as much firepower — well, relatively speaking — as his teammates showed in scoring in each of the first three innings, Saturday night's game was on the brink of turning badly for the Rays in the fifth inning.
Perilous would have been a good adjective. Precarious. Ominous.
The bases were loaded with one out after a single, error and walk, and the star Angel, Albert Pujols, stood menacingly at the plate.
"That's where the game either changes against you,'' the Rays rookie lefty said, "or stays the way it had been going.''
As much as the Rays feel has gone against them all year, things worked out incredibly well, and they went on to a 3-0 victory.
"The big part of that was Matt Moore retaining his composure," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That game was more reminiscent of what you saw at the end of last season and in the playoffs, where he had pretty much everything going on. He was really good."
Moore got the call on a close 1-and-1 pitch that put Pujols in a defensive posture. Then he got the biggest out of the night on a popup that didn't clear the mound.
Moore couldn't recall the specifics of the at-bat — "It's kind of getting away from me right now." — but won't forget the result.
"It was a good feeling seeing him pop it straight up,'' Moore said.
Then what looked like a costly mistake turned into a huge break. Moore's second pitch to Mark Trumbo skipped past the plate and to the backstop. But catcher Jose Molina played the carom and made a quick toss to Moore, who just grazed — or as the Angels thought, just missed — Bobby Wilson with his first tag then tried again and ended up getting the call from home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.
"An incredible play," Maddon said.
"A good feeling,'' Moore said.
Moore delivered a strong 6⅓ innings to continue his rebound from a slow start and even his record at 7-7. There was solid relief work from Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and former Angel Fernando Rodney, who logged his 29th save in his first game back in Anaheim and shot his imaginary arrow at the scoreboard to peg the Rally Monkey. And DH-for-a-day Ben Zobrist provided most of the offense with a sac fly and homer.
The win improved the Rays to 3-2 on their nine-game trip, upped their record to 52-49 and moved them back to within three games of the second American League wild card spot.
The Rays got a few breaks.
In the second, Angels shortstop Maicer Izturis flubbed Matt Joyce's routine-looking popup, allowing Sean Rodriguez, who had walked, stolen second and gone to third on an errant throw, to score.
They got one in the first when Desmond Jennings doubled on C.J. Wilson's first pitch, B.J. Upton bunted for a hit on his second and Zobrist hit a sac fly to center on his fourth. (Coming into the game, Jennings and Upton combined were 1-for-24 against Wilson.)
Rodriguez scored their run in the second. And they got another in the third when Zobrist drove a two-out, full-count pitch over the centerfield wall, his 12th homer of the season, just past the reach of leaping centerfielder Mike Trout.
"When he jumped, I was like, "You've got to be kidding me,' " Zobrist said. "I was just thankful it got over his head.''
Moore was sharp from the start, striking out Trout, Pujols and Trumbo, all swinging, in the first and mixing his fastball and curve throughout the night.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.