The Rays suffered 4-2 defeats in both halves of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Yankees, dropping a half-game in the AL Wild Card standings despite the Red Sox’ 6-4 loss to the Orioles.
Well aware that another loss could sink the Rays’ chances of overtaking Boston by the end of the regular season, Rays manager Joe Maddon has made an aggressive but warranted move.
According to beat writer Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, rookie Matt Moore will take the mound in Thursday evening’s series finale against New York. It will be the first major league start of the 22-year-old left-hander’s career.
Jeff Niemann, who was originally scheduled to make the start, has been bumped to Saturday.
Widely regarded as baseball’s best pitching prospect, Moore posted a 1.92 ERA and 210/46 K/BB ratio in 155 innings this season between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham before earning a mid-September promotion to the majors. He’ll be taking on a Yankees squad fresh off an AL East title celebration.
Tampa Bay faces a 2.5-game Wild Card deficit with only seven games left to play.
Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.
GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”
Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.
Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.
Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.
The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.