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Moore impresses, fans 11 in first MLB start

NEW YORK -- Even on a night when the Rays blistered Yankees pitching for 17 hits in a 15-8 win, the starting pitching still managed to overshadow the team's offense.

By winning, the Rays moved to 86-70 on the season to creep within two games of the American League Wild Card-leading Red Sox, who were idle on Thursday. In addition, the Angels -- who entered Thursday night's action tied with the Rays in the Wild Card race, lost to the Blue Jays, to fall three games back of Boston.

Tampa Bay will begin a three-game series against Toronto on Friday night at Tropicana Field before finishing up the season with a three-game series against New York, also at home.

Matt Moore started for the Rays, picking up a win in his first Major League start and showing why the 22-year-old left-hander is MLB.com's top pitching prospect in baseball. If the Yankees didn't have a hangover after Wednesday night's celebration following their clinching the AL East title, they most certainly felt like they had one after stepping in to face Moore.

Using an impressive array of pitches along with a fastball clocked in the high 90s, Moore held the Yankees to no runs on four hits while striking out 11 in his five-inning stint.

Only a day earlier Moore could be seen walking around the field at Yankee Stadium, soaking in the vibe and trying to get a feel for what the atmosphere might feel like for his first Major League start.

"I never want to envision myself doing something bad," said Moore when asked if he could have pictured the result he got Thursday night. "I think as an athlete, you can ask anybody in here, you don't picture yourself doing anything wrong or things going against you.

"For the most part, what's between your ears, you have to train yourself to envision things going the right way. And so that's where my head was at going into today."

Moore's 11 strikeouts set a new team record for a pitcher making his first big league start. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last pitcher with that many strikeouts in his first Major League start was Washington's Stephen Strasburg (14 K's) on June 8, 2010.

"He was outstanding," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I liked the strike zone. I like the strike throwing and I like the life at the end. You can see that from the side. ... His composure, Yankee Stadium, the situation, the strikes, all those things speak to the makeup of Matt Moore. ... He's pretty advanced for his age and experience level."

Added Yankees manager Joe Girardi: "The young man's got good stuff. Eleven strikeouts in five innings, I think we saw as high as 97 [mph], 3-2 changeups. He's got outstanding stuff."

Tampa Bay got busy early in support of Moore. Desmond Jennings greeted Yankees starter Bartolo Colon with a single to start the game. Colon then hit B.J. Upton before walking Evan Longoria to load the bases for Matt Joyce, who singled to right to score two. Johnny Damon's sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 3-0 before the Yankees had their first turn at bat.

"Man, it kind of seemed like [there was a magic elixir], right from the get-go. Desmond led off with a base hit, B.J. got on and Evan got on," Joyce said. "We kind of had some balls go our way, and get through the infield. We kind of got things rolling and got a little momentum, confidence going. And I think we felt a little more comfortable up at the plate today."

Derek Jeter's throwing error with two outs in the second allowed Jennings to reach and score on a triple by Upton. Longoria then doubled to right to put the Rays up, 5-0.

Ben Zobrist kept the hit parade going with a two-run homer in the third off Colon. Upton and Damon then hit two-run homers in the fourth off Scott Proctor to key a five-run inning to give the Rays a 12-0 lead.

"It kind of helps you settle down out there," said Moore of the early lead. "Just kind of helps you settle down a little bit, had a couple of touchdowns out there by the fifth inning."

Upton finished a double shy of the cycle, exiting after five plate appearances and six innings.

The Yankees scored their eight runs off Rays relievers in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, with Dane De La Rosa getting charged for six of them over his 1 1/3 innings.

Alex Torres allowed two of the runs charged to De La Rosa, giving up a two-run double to the first batter he faced, Yankees catcher Jesus Montero, before retiring Jorge Posada and Brandon Laird to end the seventh.

Torres then allowed two runs in the eighth before exiting with one out and two men on base.

Unfortunately for the Rays, they eventually had to employ Brandon Gomes, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta to insure that they could safely close the deal without any late high-wire acts.

"You just want to get her done," Maddon said. "It's unfortunate that even Jake and Gomes had to pitch in that game. We have to be able to get beyond that and not permit that to happen. That's the only negative of the whole night. It's just a positive night, 99 percent it is. But that was the only black mark on the game."

Maddon and his team still look loose, but there does seem to be a growing sense of urgency with the season drawing to a close.

"We have to win every game, pretty much," Maddon said. "There might be room for one hiccup, but we don't have much more room than that."

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