ST. PETERSBURG — The day couldn't have started better for the Rays, with rookie left-hander Matt Moore cruising in a 10-pitch first inning and his offense backing him up with four runs in the bottom half.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time, that's a 'W,' " shortstop Sean Rodriguez said.
"We were rolling," rightfielder Matt Joyce said. "Pretty much the mind-set was, we're going to have a good game. There's really no chance for them to win."
But Moore "saw things get out of hand pretty quickly," allowing eight runs in 42/3 innings as the Rays lost 9-5 to the A's on Sunday in front of 23,873 at Tropicana Field.
"Our guys put up plenty of runs, we had every bit to slam that door shut and just put that game out of reach," Moore said. "And I just let us down."
Though Tampa Bay (19-10) finished its homestand 5-2, it ended by dropping two straight to snap a five-series winning streak and falling out of first place in the American League East, a half-game behind the Orioles.
The Rays also lost leadoff man Desmond Jennings, whose status is in question after leaving in the second inning with left knee soreness.
But the biggest story line was Moore, who continues to struggle with his fastball command. This time his problems led to the shortest start of his career.
Neither the Rays nor Moore appear concerned. Manager Joe Maddon said the 22-year-old is going through the typical "inconsistencies of youth," similar to what left-hander David Price and others have dealt with.
"I don't want to say almost expected, but it's not surprising that something like this happened," Maddon said. "We have to keep working with him, keep showing support. And when we do that, he's going to come out the other side."
Moore (1-2, 5.71 ERA) said he physically feels fine and hasn't lost confidence. He is most disappointed that the team has won just two of his six starts, even though he has pitched with the lead in five of them.
That included Sunday. The Rays loaded the bases with three straight walks to start the first, then got a sacrifice fly by Jeff Keppinger, a two-run single by Joyce and a RBI single by Rodriguez for a 4-0 lead.
But Moore gave it all back in the third, allowing five runs partly due to his continued trouble with falling behind hitters. Three of the hits in the inning came on three-ball counts, including a three-run homer by Brandon Inge on a 3-and-1 fastball.
"(Inge) did exactly what he was supposed to do with a 3-1 high fastball," Moore said. "Especially after he timed up four of them."
Moore gave up three more runs in the fifth before getting pulled after 102 pitches. A's hitters were 5-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
"That wasn't fun," Moore said. "It turned into eight pretty quickly before I really realized it."
Moore believes he'll bounce back and wants to give the team the same confidence the other starters provide.
"As soon as these guys come in the locker room and they see the starting pitcher, it's like, 'All right, we're winning today,' " Moore said. "Well, as of right now, through my first six starts, it's not really been that. So we're obviously looking for something to change."