ST. PETERSBURG — As rookie LHP Matt Moore watched Brandon Allen's winning homer sail over the fence, he immediately felt better about his day because, unlike his first three outings, at least the Rays didn't lose.
"I was kind of hoping we weren't going to be 0-4 after my starts," Moore said after Thursday's 4-3 victory over the Angels.
Actually, Moore saw lots of reason for optimism after what was the most impressive of his starts. He allowed only a walk through a dazzling first four innings and three runs (two earned) overall for his 5⅔.
"Overall, I felt great," Moore said. "I felt like the timing of all my stuff was better. I wasn't thinking about mechanics or mechanisms or all that stuff that sometimes you get to think about. It was just getting down the hill and going right at them. That made all my pitches sharper and the quality of them better."
Manager Joe Maddon was thoroughly impressed, saying Moore looked "more like what we saw at the end of last season." He was totally unconcerned that their prized rookie has a 4.68 ERA and is winless through his first four starts, the longest a Rays starter has gone without a victory since Jason Hammel in 2007.
"If he keeps pitching like that, honestly, the (Johnny Carson) Carnac thing, I can see many wins in his future," Maddon said.
POWER RANGERS: The Rays are quite familiar with the Rangers, who ended their last two seasons in the playoffs and are off to a majors-best start this season.
"They're off to a hot start for sure," said RHP James Shields, who starts tonight's opener. "That's one team you just can't take lightly. You've got to go out there and pitch your game, stay aggressive and really make your pitches. If you make mistakes, they're going to hurt you."
Maddon heaped even more praise: "They've been tough versus us. They're a very good ballclub. They have everything. They have everything they need. There's no weakness within that group, so it's going to be an interesting three-game series this early in the year."
THE DO RUN-RUN: The Rays uncharacteristically made two baserunning mistakes. 2B Ben Zobrist was picked off second base in the first inning, and birthday boy Sean Rodriguez, who turned 27, was caught rounding third too wide after a force at second. Maddon acknowledged they were "significant mistakes," saying the Angels made a good play on Rodriguez and Zobrist, usually a top-notch baserunner, made a mistake "you won't see again, I think, until 2028."
ALBERT WHO? The Rays did a strong job against Angels 1B Albert Pujols, holding him to 1-for-10 in the series. Though Pujols did end his career-worst 0-for-21 skid with a sixth-inning single, his season-starting homerless streak reached 75 at-bats. "We attacked him really well," Maddon said.
TO THE MATT: OF Matt Joyce continued his torrid start with a double and a triple, giving him seven extra-base hits in his past seven games and hits in 10 of the past 12 for a .322 average. "I think a lot of things are happening with me," he said. "I feel like I'm getting more confident, I'm learning a lot, and I'm growing."
LEGAL MATTER: A decision was postponed until Monday on reducing the $1.015 million bail for minor-league RHP Matt Bush, who remains in the Charlotte County jail facing seven charges from a March 22 DUI hit-and-run arrest. The delay was due to a health issue with the prosecutor.
MISCELLANY: Several Rays had issues with plate umpire Tim Timmons' strike zone, which Maddon used one of his favorite words to describe: "amorphic." … The Rays are a majors-best 8-1 at home, and 5-1 in one-run games. … OF Desmond Jennings has an eight-game hitting streak. … OF B.J. Upton's ninth-inning single was the first hit Angels closer Jordan Walden allowed to a right-hander this year.