SEATTLE -- Before Wednesday's series finale against the Astros, Mariners manager Scott Servais said he'd be content with four or five innings from Andrew Moore.
How about six, skipper?
The rookie right-hander, making his first start since July 26 after being bumped from the Mariners' rotation and optioned to Triple-A Tacoma following the acquisition of Erasmo Ramirez, allowed two runs on three hits in six innings in Seattle's 5-3 loss at Safeco Field. He was efficient with his pitch count, firing 80 pitches six frames, even after throwing 23 pitches in the first inning.
"I thought Andrew Moore gave us more than what we anticipated we could get, getting six innings out of him tonight," Servais said. "Really efficient. Probably, I thought, his best outing since when he first came to the big leagues this year. Really encouraging, happy for him. He's been working on a few things. Getting six innings out of him was great."
Servais' expectations going in stemmed from Moore not being stretched out. He did not surpass four innings in five August starts in the Minors, along with a two-inning relief appearance on Aug. 31. That workload was designed to keep Moore fresh so he could be shuttled between Seattle and Tacoma and be used as a long reliever while the Mariners tried to piece together their starting rotation.
He more than held his own against one of the toughest lineups in the Majors on Wednesday.
"That was my longest outing in a while, so those last few innings were kind of tough," Moore said. "Really had to fight and slow the pace a little bit. [Catcher Mike Zunino] called a great game. We had a great gameplan going in. They're an extremely aggressive team, especially on fastballs, but like I said before, that's my strength."
During his stints at Tacoma and in the Mariners' bullpen, Moore tweaked his mechanics on his offspeed pitches, particularly his changeup, focusing on getting more extension on his release.
His fine-tuning proved useful on Wednesday. Moore threw 20 changeups against the Astros. Seven were in the first inning, and he struggled to find the strike zone. But from the second inning on, Moore threw 11 strikes and only two balls with his primary offspeed pitch, with four whiffs.
Ultimately, all facets of the game need to align for the Mariners, 3 1/2 games back of the second American League Wild Card spot and with six teams ahead of them, to make a run. Lately it's been the Mariners' offense that's not held up its end of the bargain, as the Mariners only generated six runs in three games against the Astros, going 0-3 despite three quality starts.
"Our starting pitching, really the three games against the Astros, did a fantastic job," Servais said. "I thought we were right in every game. We just didn't get the big hits late, and that's what it takes to beat the good teams. It's timely hitting. I thought our starting pitching was plenty good enough. Kept us in the game. Just didn't get the big hits late."