Matt Moore was dominant, throwing a two-hit complete-game shutout that pushed the Rays to a 3-0 win over the Red Sox at Fenway. The Rays have won 18 of their past 25 and cut the Sox’s lead in the American League East to just a half-game.
Moore faced just 29 batters, two over the minimum, striking out four to win his major-league leading 14th game of the season.
Rookie right-hander Brandon Workman did his best to duel with the hot-handed lefty, bouncing back from a 33-pitch first inning to throw six solid frames, giving up just two runs on seven hits with four strikeouts of his own.
But the Rays were able to piece together run support with James Loney going 1 for 4 with 2 RBIs The only Sox that managed to muster hits off Moore were David Ortiz (1 for 3) and Mike Napoli (1 for 2).
End of the eighth, Rays 2, Red Sox 0: With another three-up, three down inning Matt Moore’s faced two over the minimum. No one’s up in the Rays bullpen, so he’ll come out in the ninth with a chance for to get his first complete game shutout of the season.
End of the seventh, Rays 2, Red Sox 0: Between David Ortiz’s and Mike Napoli, the Sox actually made Matt Moore throw pitches in the seventh.
Ortiz worked the count full over six pitches before shooting a liner to right. He contemplated takign a shot a second, but put on the brakes.
He’d get there eventually, when an 0-and-2 slider to Mike Napoli went wild on Moore. It was as much trouble as he’s been in all night, which is to say he hasn’t been in any. Two pitches later, he got Napoli to fly out to right to end the inning.
End of the sixth, Rays 2, Red Sox 0:All Matt Moore needed was six pitches to get out of the inning. He hasn’t thrown more than 15 in a frame all night.
Meanwhile, Brandon Workman’s work is done after 6 innings. He threw 103 pitches and gave up two runs on seven hits..
Jose De La Torre will come in to relieve him. He hasn’t pitched since July 8, when he gave up three runs on three hits in 1.2 innings against Seattle.
End of the fifth, Rays 2, Red Sox 0: A leadoff walk by Yunel Escobar, a close infield single by Ben Zobrist and a sharp single to right by James Loney gave the Rays another run.
Sox manager John Farrell came out for the dugout to argue with first base umpire Tony Randazzo, who ruled that Esobar got the better of a bang-bang play, beating Jose Iglesias’ throw by an eye-blink.
The Sox are still scuffling, they haven’t had a runner reach second, and Matt Moore is cruising, having thrown just 59 pitches.
End of the fourth, Rays 1, Red Sox 0:Workman goes 1-2-3 for the first time today, bookending the inning by blowing 92 mile-per-hour fastballs by Kelly Johnson and Jose Lobaton.
End of the third, Rays 1, Red Sox 0: Three innings in, Workman’s settled down. He gave up a leadoff single to Ben Zobrist to start the inning, Evan Longoria, James Loney and Luke Scott all to pop up.
Along with his ability to control the strike zone, Sox manager John Farrell said one of Workman’s strengths is his composure.
“The one things he’s shown is a good mound presence and not a fear of the environment or tight situations that he’s found himself in,” Farrell said pregame. “He doesn’t give you that dear in the headlights look when you see him on the mound or in between innings and that’s very encouraging.”
End of the second, Rays 1, Red Sox 0: Matt Moore’s retired six of the first seven batter’s he’s faced tonight. David Ortiz barely got a piece of 95 mile-per-hour fastball, tipping it in front of the plate then jogging to first, knowing Rays catcher Jose Lobaton had plenty of time to make the easy play.
After giving up a single to Mike Napoli, Moore got Jonny Gomes to flail at a 1-and-2 changeup. Then he made Ryan Lavarnway look silly with a 1-and-2 changeup.
End of the first, Rays 1, Red Sox 0: The Rays made it tough on rookie starter Brandon Workman. The Sox made it easy on dominant lefty Matt Moore.
Tampa squeezed 33 pitches out of Workman, who pounded the strike zone (21 strikes), but was tagged for three hits. His saving grace was picking off Desmond Jennings, who reached on a leadoff flare to right. The run came on an RBI single by James Loney.
Evan Longoria made Workman throw him seven pitches before singling to center. Luke Scott’s at-bat lasted nine pitches, and ultiamtely ended up in a single.
The most pitches Workman’s thrown this season was the 110 he threw for Pawtucket over 6.1 innings against the Buffalo Bisons in June.
Meanwhile, the Sox went down 1-2-3 on three weak pop ups.
Pregame: With only 1.5 games separating the Red Sox and the Rays for the AL East lead, no one in either dugout is taking this series lightly. In the same breath, Rays manager Joe Maddon played up the importance, calling it a “prime opportunity,” and tried to scale it back, chasing that claim by saying, “the moment we start thinking about it in those terms, it’s going to get away from us.”
The Rays have won the past five straight and are riding their best 19-game stretch in team history, going 17-2, which is also the best 19-game run by an AL team since the Twins went 18-1 n 2006. At the start of that run, the Rays were seven games back and fourth place in the division. Now they’re right in the Red Sox rearview mirror.
“I think our guys are very well-aware of where things are and who we’re playing and the stretch of games in which we’re in the midst of,” said Sox manager John Farrell, whose team is coming off an 11-inning walkoff ironman match with the Yankees that lasted nearly five hours. “We just came off of a hard-fought series that ended today and knowing that these four games are going to be probably the same type of intensity that we’ve been going through. So I’m very confident that our guys understand where we are and what lies ahead here.”
The Sox have been in first place since May 27, 52 straight days. Overall, they’ve been atop the division for 90 days this season. Their lead hasn’t been less than two games since June 20 when they faced the Orioles.
Obviously, it’s a big series. Enjoy the games. Feel free to comment.