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.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.

Twins’ top prospect Nick Burdi will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.

Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.

It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”