Matt Moore turns back the clock against Astros

by Gary Shelton on June 13, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Matt Moore was good enough to make you remember./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Matt Moore was good enough to make you remember./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Monday, 6 a.m.

This is the way he used to be. This is the way he used to throw.

The world belonged to Matt Moore and that magnificent left arm of his back when he was a kid. He was a gunslinger in those days, and the mount belonged to him. He was used to walking across the infield with zeroes on the scoreboard.

Sunday, he was there again. Excellence revisited.

To Matt Moore, it was 2013 all over again against the Houston Astros.

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He threw a two-hit shutout. He struck out 10. He survived a 37-pitch second inning. For a guy who had the critics wondering who should take his place in the rotation, and how soon, he earned reconsideration.

Logan Forsythe fields a grounder against the Astros./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Logan Forsythe fields a grounder against the Astros./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Instead, it is Matt Andriese, who has been excellent, who will lose his spot in the lineup when Blake Snell comes up this week. Andriese will go to the bullpen.

The old-time feelings struck Moore, too. There were a couple of times in the game he turned to fellow pitcher Alex Cobb, who is on the disabled list, and talked about the rush he felt, and how he hadn't felt it for a long time.

No, he hadn't. Coming into the game, Moore had gone 1-4 over his previous nine starts with a 6.49 ERA. Fourteen of his 24 starts had lasted five innings or less. Opponents were hitting .316 against him. Even for a pitcher who tries to maintain an even-keel, this was hard stuff.

“It’s not fun,” Moore said. “Even if things aren’t going as well as I expect them. We all have expectations on what we are capable of. When I was I was kind of getting the game out of reach earlier in the season, that was the disappointing moment. Anytime you can keep the team in the game with the opportunity to win, you have to be happy for that. Today was that.”

Moore had won only once since April 17. It was his first scoreless start since Sept. 17 of 2015.

Consider his results. Moore doesn't show a lot of emotions, but how difficult must it be to have teams score five, six runs off you? How hard must it be to not last beyond the fifth?

“It was a tremendous job,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He was very efficient. We thought it was hopefully a sign of some good things to come. Jim Hickey came over after his bullpen warmup session and said his curveball was tremendous, and that proved to be very right on because the curveball was a big-time weapon for him today. ... He was on pace to go five innings and max out because of pitch count alone, but he did a tremendous job of resetting, attacking the strike zone and getting some earlier outs.”

Houston's hitters acknowledged how tough Moore was.

“He was throwing all the way up to 96," said Jose Atulve, who had both hits. "He was mixing his pitches really good. I think his pitch today was his curveball. He was commanding his pitches really good, sometimes you have to tip your hat to the pitcher.”

Of course, Moore's problems originate from his Tommy John surgery. Some pitchers recover quicker than others.

That has put the Rays in the uncomfortable situation of waiting for Matt Moore to be Matt Moore again. Yeah, there have been too many short starts, too many doubles in too many gaps, too many games where the Rays were playing chase from the start. At age 27, there were fans who thought it was time to move on from him.

"We are deep enough in the season that you can kind of expect to be stretched out a little bit in those moments," Moore said. "Putting up the five-spot up there was nice. For us in the 2nd inning to give up [37] pitches and come back and still be in the 7th inning is something to hang your hat on.”

This didn't stop all of that, of course. One start can't. But it can make you re-

Longoria had two more hits to improve is average to .279./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Longoria had two more hits to improve is average to .279./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

assess. He can make you look differently at his next outing. It can make you think … maybe.

Look, when Moore was hurt in 2013, most people thought he would be the ace of this staff once 2016 rolled around (and David Price was gone). Then, most people thought it would be Alex Cobb, who was hurt. Then, most people thought it would be Chris Archer, who has not grown into the stopper most fans wanted.

It's tough on a pitching staff to lose its ace every year.

Who knows? If Moore can come back, and Archer can settle in, and Cobb gets healthy, this may be a fine pitching staff after all.

That's what Moore gave you Sunday.

He allowed you to imagine.

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