Matt Moore dominates as Rays cruise to Game 1 victory

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Pretty much any team other than the Rays would have given Matt Moore an opportunity months ago. Fortunately, Tampa Bay did find some room for him in the end.

Making just his second big-league start and fourth appearance, Moore blanked the Rangers for seven innings on Friday and, supported by a pair of homers from Kelly Shoppach, picked up the victory in a 9-0 game.

Moore was never in serious trouble while giving up just two hits and two walks. He touched 98 mph on the gun and struck out six.

Moore’s Rangers counterpart couldn’t compare.  After posting a 1.21 ERA in September, C.J. Wilson entered the series as hot as any pitcher in the postseason.  However, he gave up eight runs — six earned — and three homers in this one.

With one in the second, Johnny Damon started it off by hitting just the third homer Wilson has given up to a left-hander this season.  Shoppach then added a three-run homer in the third and a two-run blast in the fifth.

The loss at home with their best starter on the mound leaves the Rangers in a big hole here.  Now they’ll have to beat Rays ace James Shields on Saturday to have much of a chance in the series. The good news is that Shields hasn’t been at his best lately. Also, the Rangers will get to play in the evening and their offense was much better in night games than day games this year. Still, they may need their own young left-hander, Derek Holland, to come through with the same kind of performance that Moore did today.

Notes

– The two homers gave Shoppach five RBI.  He didn’t drive in more than two runs in any of his 87 appearances this season, and he ended the year with just 22 RBI (despite having hit 11 homers) in 221 at-bats.

– Shoppach was the first player since Ryan Howard in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series to have two homers and five RBI in a postseason game. He joined Yogi Berra, Gene Tenace, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli as the only catchers to have two-homer games in the postseason.

– One of the two hits surrendered by Moore was a Josh Hamilton double to right that Matt Joyce got a bad read on. It was a ball that should have been caught.

– Hamilton was initially credited with a sacrifice bunt while the Rangers were down 8-0 in the sixth. He was going for the hit, of course, but since it moved Elvis Andrus up to second, the sacrifice was awarded. Fortunately, the official scorer came to his senses and reversed his decision two innings later.

– Hamilton had both Rangers hits in the game.  He had as many hits today as he did in the ALDS against the Rays last year (2-for-18) and as he did in the World Series loss to the Giants (2-for-20).

– Damon’s homer was his 10th in 249 postseason at-bats, giving him a home run rate 66 percent higher in October than his regular-season rate (he’s averaged six homers every 249 regular-season at-bats in his career).  He’s the 33rd player in big-league history to reach double-figures in postseason home runs.

Must-Click Link: “Skunk in the Outfield”

Associated Press
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Sam Miller of ESPN has an amazingly fantastic story today. It’s about a high school tournament baseball game in Rhode Island in 2006. It’s not your typical game story or oral history or look-to-the-past-to-see-the-future kind of thing. The only nod to such conventionality is mention of the fact that former Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland played in the game. That’s mostly a footnote.

No, the article is about a trick play — “skunk in the outfield” — concocted by one of the coaches. About how it played out and what went into it before, during and after it happened. Along the way Miller talks about the nature of trick plays and offers a good three dozen amazing insights into the psychology of young baseball players and the strategy of baseball as it unfolds in real time.

Each of these observations could anchor its own story but here they form a grand mosaic. And that’s only mild hyperbole, if in fact it’s hyperbole at all. Indeed, most treatments of such a play would be some video clip with a “wow, look what happened here!” sort of couching. Miller gives a more than ten-year-old trick play an epic treatment that is every bit as enlightening as it is entertaining.

Set some time aside to read this today.

Rubby De La Rosa to undergo a second Tommy John Surgery

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This is unfortunate: Diamondbacks reliever Rubby De La Rosa will undergo Tommy John surgery. This will be the second Tommy John procedure of his career, the first coming back in 2011.

De La Rosa has had elbow  issues for his entire career. Last year his UCL was barking again and he underwent stem cell therapy to try to avoid a second surgery, but it obviously hasn’t worked out. He’s pitched in only nine games this year, allowing four earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings, striking out 12.

I first saw De La Rosa in spring training in 2011. I thought his stuff was pretty phenomenal and figured he’d be a good one. Great stuff is often a function of heavy strain on an elbow, however, and pitchers breaking is, unfortunately, the rule in baseball far more than the exception.

He’ll miss a year at least. We likely won’t see him until spring of 2019, most likely on a minor league deal.