Performer of the game: Rays rookie Moore
Second career start results in seven shutout innings, Game 1 win
ARLINGTON -- Rays rookie left-hander Matt Moore was the first pitcher in Major League history to start a postseason game with just one big league start under his belt on Friday.
It was impossible to tell by his performance on the mound, though, as the 22-year-old dominated a high-powered Rangers offense with an impressive array of pitches and pinpoint command.
Moore teamed up with veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach to toss seven shutout innings en route a 9-0 victory over the Rangers in Game 1 of the American League Division Series Rangers Ballpark.
"This is a different level I have never been to and everybody here is really good," Moore said. "Shopp's receiving and defense back there, it was really just a matter of getting on the same page with pitch selection, what we wanted to do and a game plan.
Spin to Win
"The visual target down there obviously was outstanding, and it was really just a game plan we had to figure out, because everything else was set up the way it needed to be."
Moore was making just his second career start in the big leagues, but he seemed unfazed by the lack of experience. He surrendered just two hits -- both to outfielder Josh Hamilton -- and walked two while throwing 62 of his 98 pitches for strikes.
The Florida native, who was staked to an early 6-0 lead, allowed only two baserunners to reach scoring position during his outing. Hamilton doubled to right field to lead off the fourth, but Moore retired the next three batters in order to escape the frame without any damage.
Elvis Andrus walked to lead off the sixth and advanced to second base on a grounder by Hamilton. Moore got out of trouble, though, by inducing a groundout from Michael Young and getting Adrian Beltre to fly out to end the inning.
Moore is the 13th pitcher in Major League history to throw at least seven shutout innings in a playoff game before the age of 23. He also was able to become a source of stability for a Tampa Bay pitching staff that didn't have a starter complete seven innings during last year's ALDS loss to Texas.
It was an impressive outing by a pitcher who was going up against Texas, which ranked third in the Major Leagues with 855 runs during the regular season.
"I don't know that he's old enough to even understand how well these guys hit at this park," Shoppach said. "Which can be good -- it could have played in his favor.
"I felt like he was able to pound the strike zone, and it's pretty impressive to see what he would do. I hope that he can learn from some of the mistakes that were made and can continue to grow, because as it looks like, we are going to need him here in the future."
Moore was Tampa Bay's top prospect this season according to MLB.com. He didn't receive an invitation to Spring Training with the big leaguers but proceeded to go 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA in a combined 27 starts for Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.
He gained notoriety because of a high strikeout ratio, which set him apart from the rest of his competition. Moore broke his own organizational record for a Rays Minor Leaguer with 210 strikeouts, but he didn't get to showcase his skills in the big leagues until Sept. 14.
Friday afternoon was the first time Shoppach had an opportunity to catch him in a game and couldn't help but laugh when asked during a news conference about how difficult it has been for the two to get on the same page in such a short period of time.
"I didn't know if it was the curveball or a slider until we went through warm ups in the bullpen before the game," Shoppach said. "He hasn't pitched much. Actually, I knew nothing about him.
"When a guy can command all of his pitches, it makes it easier for me to pick one to call, and he was able to execute everything today. So learning him is a growing process."
After the game, manager Joe Maddon declined to accept any of the credit for his gutsy decision to start Moore in Game 1. The move was a collaborative one made by his coaching staff and some members of the scouting department, but it ended up paying big dividends.
Maddon said he could tell almost from the start that the right call had been made.
"He was outstanding," Maddon said. "Even from the first inning, you can see where [Ian] Kinsler was not comfortable with him in the first at-bat, and I really took that as a good sign. The fact that he was throwing strikes really made all the difference in the world.
"He's got that kind of composure. You saw the composure all night. You saw that a couple of 2-0 counts, boom, comes back with the strike."
At this time last year, Moore was watching on television as his future teammates took on the Rangers in the ALDS. Now he has taken center stage in a series which Tampa Bay has the early edge.
Moore could hardly believe how far he has come in the past three weeks -- let alone the past 12 months.
"I know everybody's name in that lineup," Moore said of the Rangers. "I never faced them before, just kind of one of those things I didn't want to be out of it before I was in it.
"Having said that, I was going to ... just take it like any other start. I tried to be as normal and as calm as possible, and it was just a matter of getting comfortable. There on it was throwing strikes."