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.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.