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Moore continues strong push as season ends

ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Moore has paved a significant stretch of his road to recovery over his last three outings, the most recent being a seven-inning gem on Tuesday that helped propel the Rays to a 4-2 victory over the Marlins at Tropicana Field.

After struggling mightily (9 2/3 IP, 8 ER, 4 HR) in the two starts that followed his September recall from Triple-A Durham, Moore has been brilliant, delivering three consecutive quality starts while holding opponents to three earned runs in 20 2/3 innings with 19 strikeouts and three walks.

"Just attacking the strike zone," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash when asked to share the secret of his lefty's sudden reversal of fortune.

"He was a little erratic there right when he came back, but if you look at Matt's overall strike percentage in his last three starts (70%), it's been really good and that's pretty telling, with the quality of stuff that he has."

Moore's outing started in less-than-spectacular fashion, as the former 17-game winner surrendered back-to-back doubles to Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich that led to the game's first run. He bounced back nicely, however, retiring 10 of the next 11 Marlins he faced.

"Right when he came off the disabled list, I don't know how he responds to that," conceded Cash. "I know now, the confidence that he's built over the last couple of starts probably helps him. He understands that he can flip it in gear and hold it right there. Which he did."

Moore, 26, possesses perspective beyond his years as a result of the challenges he has faced while coming back from Tommy John surgery, and provided a glimpse of it during his post-game remarks.

"I'm very grateful to be back and pitching pain free. With the stuff that's coming out right now? I couldn't ask for more," he said. "It's not like I have to reconvince myself of what I'm capable of, but it does feel good to roll out a couple in a row, regardless of what the overall situation is."

Moore also enjoyed contributing to what he hopes will be a strong final week of the season.

"We're all still trying to do our job and do it well. It adds to just the overall vibe of how things are going. We'll take a lot more like this."

And will Cash give Moore the opportunity to deliver quality start number four, before season's end?

"I would anticipate that," said Cash. "We'll talk through it. We get everybody involved and then Matt himself. We'll probably have that decided in the next day or so."  

And as for Moore, he'll happily take the ball one more time.

"They know I want to throw. As long as we have games, I want to stay on schedule. I feel like I'm finally getting to a good place -- a stride, if you want to call it that -- and I'm definitely not ready to shut it down just yet."

Michael Kolligan is a contributor for
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