Youngster first Rays pitcher to start season with 7-0 record
ST. PETERSBURG -- The leaderboards show a pitcher who's 7-0 with a 2.44 ERA and a .172 batting average against him.
Rays manager Joe Maddon sees a 23-year-old pitcher with overpowering stuff, a rare ability to avoid getting squared up and composure beyond his years. Outfielder Matt Joyce sees an "unbelievable" pitcher with "tremendous talent." Red Sox slugger David Ortiz sees a young lefty who's "improved a lot" and makes quality pitches despite the occasional lack of fastball command.
But they all see Matt Moore as a dominant pitcher who's only beginning to scratch the surface of what he's capable of. That's no small compliment for the only 7-0 pitcher in baseball, the first Rays pitcher to start a season 7-0 and the second starter under age 24 to start a season that way since 2007.
"Matt's been wonderful, and again, he's going to keep getting better," Maddon said. "There's more within Moore."
The Rays' 5-3 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday night was more or less the perfect example of that. He gave up three runs in the first inning on a homer by Ortiz. Yet Moore allowed only one hit after that. He walked two, but neither scored. The southpaw struck out eight and pitched six innings, but he would've liked to stick around longer.
As good as Moore's been lately -- and he's on an eight-game winning streak dating back to last season, tying a franchise record -- he's only thrown more than six innings twice this season. He'll be the first to tell you that number is what he would most like to improve on going forward.
"I definitely do feel like a lot of those pointless pitches are wasted pitches early in the count. When those go away, when I do a better job of staying in that three-four pitches to each hitter, I feel like there's a lot more there," Moore said. "There's especially a lot more innings to come."
But that's also part of what makes Moore so stingy for such long stretches. He's walked 25 hitters, third most in the Majors, but he's only given up 29 hits in 48 innings. Maddon pointed out that nobody's been able to "bludgeon" Moore by putting together a string of base hits this season, even if the occasionally wild fastball command comes at the cost of keeping Moore from pitching seven innings every time out.
"Whenever you're limiting base hits the way he's done ... you can get away with walking people," ace David Price said. "He can still get better. He knows that. He wants to start going deeper into these games, and I have a very good feeling he's going to."
Catcher Jose Molina has been impressed with Moore's ability to recognize when a pitch isn't working, but more than anything, he praised how Moore adds to his repertoire in those situations rather than becoming predictable by shying away from a particular pitch.
Moore threw 33 of his 59 fastballs for strikes Tuesday and induced only three swing and misses. He also mixed in 28 curveballs, 16 of them for strikes, and 13 changeups, all of them strikes and five of them swung on and missed, to help keep Boston's right-handed hitters off-balance.
"I think some guys stop doing that," Molina said. "You just have to remember: In the bullpen, you practice all those pitches every time. So for him, I think what's helping him is using all his pitches in the good times and the bad.
"He's just learning right now how to pitch, how to get these guys out, how to get other guys out, how to battle in the good, how to battle in the bad, how to battle in the regular. He's got a lot of improvement to go. A lot, a lot -- I'm saying, a lot. ... The maturity that he has on the mound to keep battling ... another guy could've quit in the fifth inning, third inning, fourth inning or given up six or eight runs. He just stayed there and gives you six innings. That's a pretty good line for anybody."
A 7-0 record and 2.44 ERA isn't too bad, either, but as Moore will readily admit, he's capable of much more.
"All those things, they're going to happen," Maddon said. "That's all going to happen within the next two years, and that's what I'm saying: He could really be an accomplished pitcher at that point."