ST. PETERSBURG — Rays rookie Matt Moore has always had electric stuff on the mound.
But it wasn't until after Sunday's 8-4 win over the Orioles that Moore was allowed to flip the switch and illuminate the Captain Morgan lamp in the Rays clubhouse, a ritual reserved for the player of the game.
Moore, who struggled in his first nine appearances this season and entered 1-5 with a 4.76 ERA, pitched six innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts. His only costly mistake was a fastball down and inside that Orioles C Matt Wieters blasted 427 feet for a solo home run in the second inning.
It was the second straight quality start for Moore, who lost 2-1 to the White Sox to open the homestand. In that game, he pitched a career-high seven innings, striking out 10, walking one and allowing four hits, including a two-run homer to Adam Dunn that was the difference.
Sunday, Moore worked in and out of trouble as the Orioles stranded six runners through the first five innings.
"I had a lot of runners on, the whole game it seemed like I was pitching out of the stretch, which for me, like any starter, wants to be out of the windup as much as possible," Moore said. "The rhythm of the game is a lot better. … I think it was a good day for me, just getting able to work out of some situations like that."
The difference in Moore's past two starts has been the ability not to speed things up — including his delivery — with runners on base.
"He's a little bit more under control, in the present," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's not speeding up as much. I did speak to him about that specifically. As he gets more into that mode, you're going to see the sixth, seventh, eighth inning. You're going to see 110 pitches, more strikeouts, weaker contact. Those things are going to follow."
And there will be more clubhouse visits to Captain Morgan.
"It was my first time lighting it up, so it was pretty cool," Moore said. "Hopefully, that thing will get lit up a lot more."
BULLISH BULLPEN: The Rays had more solid relief help Sunday.
LHP Jake McGee extended his streak of scoreless appearances to 11 as he worked the seventh inning, allowing one hit while striking out a batter. McGee lowered his ERA to 1.47.
RHP Wade Davis allowed a home run to Mark Reynolds to start the eighth inning then struck out the next three. When he ran into some trouble in the ninth, the Rays turned it over to closer Fernando Rodney with one out and runners on first and third. Pinch-hitter Nick Johnson popped out, Wieters had an RBI single then Rodney forced Reynolds to ground out to SS Elliot Johnson for the final out.
JENNINGS RETURN CLOSE: LF Desmond Jennings went 0-for-4 in a rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Durham and could rejoin the Rays on Tuesday in New York against the Yankees.
The question will be what to do with Hideki Matsui, who is batting only .188 but has hit the ball hard in each of his starts in leftfield. Sunday, Matsui went 1-for-3 before being replaced by Rich Thompson as a pinch-runner in the sixth.
"I'm debating that mentally, I don't know. I mean, if (Matsui) could play third base, it would be great," Maddon said jokingly. "We'll see. Again, having to be creative because he is swinging the bat well right now and he's had a history of hitting left-handed pitchers. We'll look and see how we're going to do that."