Tampa Bay scored a single run in each of the first three innings, and Matt Moore and three relievers made them hold up as the Rays topped the Angels 3-0 last night. Moore knifed through the Los Angeles offense, holding Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Mark Trumbo to only a single in seven at bats. Moore went 6.1 innings, allowing only four hits and a pair of walks in evening his season record at 7-7.
The Rays scored in the first as Desmond Jennings led off with a first-pitch double to center. B.J. Upton followed with a base-hit bunt that moved Jennings to third.
Ben Zobrist then brought Jennings home with a sacrifice fly to center. Tampa Bay would add another run in the second on a Sean Rodriguez walk and stolen base, followed by a run-scoring error by L.A. shortstop Maicer Izturis.
Zobrist capped off the scoring with his 12th home run of the season, a blast to center of Angels’ starter C.J. Wilson, who fell to 9-7 for the season.
The best scoring chance for the Angels came in the bottom of the fifth when they loaded the bases on Bobby Wilson’s one-out double, an error on a ground ball to third by Mike Trout, and a walk to Torii Hunter. On a 1-2 count, Moore got Pujols to pop up to shortstop Sean Rodriguez. It appeared the Angels would score on a pitch that went to the backstop, but it rebounded to catcher Jose Molina who whirled and fired a strike to Moore at the plate to get Wilson for the third out. The call at the plate was questioned by Los Angeles’ manager Mike Scioscia to no avail. Here’s some more on Moore.
Jake McGee took over for Moore with one out in the seventh, and struck out Bobby Wilson and Trout to end the inning. Joel Peralta pitched the eighth, recording two strikeouts while allowing a single, and closer Fernando Rodney earned his 29th save with a perfect ninth inning.
Jeremy Hellickson (5-6, 3.42) will pitch for the Rays today at 3:35 EDT. Newly acquired Zack Greinke will take the ball for the Halos. Greinke is 9-3 with an E.R.A. of 3.44 this season. Hellickson, who won for the first time since May in his last start, looks to take the rubber game of the three-game set with the Angels.
• Moore’s record of 7-7 is deceptive. He’s 6-2 over his last ten starts, with an E.R.A. of 3.32 and 54 strikeouts in only 52 innings pitched. Had he gotten decent run support through his twenty starts, his record could look a whole lot better. I know the deal about “ifs and buts,” but my point is that he has kept his wits and not lost his confidence through some rough times. That’s much easier said than done for a rookie pitcher.
• Speaking of confidence, Moore surely gained some as he all but silence the Angels “big three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Mark Trumbo. He snapped off a filthy curve ball to strike out Trout, and made King Albert look uncomfortable each at-bat. Trumbo, known for his long-ball abilities managed only a single in three at-bats. Moore struck the trio swinging in the first inning.
• Ben Zobrist took the day off from playing defense, but knocked in the Rays first and third runs of the game with a sac fly and home run to center. His batting average of .247 doesn’t tell the whole story of his clutch hitting. His OPS of .825 is third among starters, behind Matt Joyce (.851) and Jeff Keppinger (.836).
• Evan Longoria is rehabbing at AAA Durham, and might be back for the team’s next home stretch. The offense can’t wait to see him, as they rank 13th in the American League in OPS at .688, and are next to last also with the second-most strikeouts in the league, with 821.
• Jeff Niemann threw fifty pitches off a mound on Friday, and is targeted for a possible return in late August.
• James Shields’ name keeps popping up in trade talks. It’s the nature of the business, and we will only know the real answer to the rumors by the trade deadline Tuesday afternoon. It’s hard to imagine him in another uniform. http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/tampa-bay-rays-say-only-theyll-be-talking-about-potential-trades/1243065