Matt Moore returns as Rays blast through Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Once he struck out his first batter, Matt Moore knew he was back in charge.

Moore pitched into the sixth inning in
his return from the disabled list, and the Tampa Bay Rays got home runs
from Desmond Jennings and Yunel Escobar in a 7-1 victory over the Los
Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.

“That strikeout, it was a good sign,”
said Moore, who fanned J.B. Shuck leading off the Angels first. “Just to
get into a good sequence like that with the first hitter and not
falling behind helped me out a lot. I felt like when I was in counts
like 1-2, 2-1, where it looked like it was going to get into hitters’
counts, I felt like I was able to battle and make some pitches.”

Moore (15-3) won his seventh straight
decision, yielding an unearned run and four hits in 5 1-3 innings as the
Rays snapped a five-game losing streak and remained 5 games behind AL
East-leading Boston. The first-time All-Star, who missed the entire
month of August because of elbow soreness, had won six straight outings
before getting a no-decision his previous time out on July 28 at Yankee
Stadium.

“It didn’t really feel foreign out
there. I think all of the thoughts I had were pretty typical for a
start,” Moore said. “Just being able to travel with the team on the road
when I was on the DL and be in the dugout in every home game was big
for me because it helped me stay in the game.”

Roberto Hernandez struck out his first
five batters after relieving Moore, and seven altogether in 3 2-3
perfect innings to record his first save in eight major league seasons.
It was only his second relief outing since his rookie season with
Cleveland in 2006.

“When he walks out and you give him the
ball, he’s very businesslike. He was outstanding,” manager Joe Maddon
said. “With that kind of a lead, you want Roberto to keep going.”

Moore’s biggest moment came in the
fourth, when he retired rookie Grant Green on a popup with two men in
scoring position and the Rays leading 4-1. He departed after giving up a
one-out single to Luis Jimenez in the sixth.

“Overall, Matt was relatively sharp,”
Maddon said. “He had a good curve and changeup to go with the fastball.
We wanted to get him out there for the sixth inning so that at least
he’d get up and down six times. Once he did that, it was a perfect spot
for Roberto.”

Los Angeles left-hander Jason Vargas
(8-6) was charged with five runs and 10 hits in four-plus innings.
Vargas, who missed almost two months because of a blood clot under his
armpit, is 2-2 with a 4.33 ERA in five starts since coming off the DL.

“It just makes it a little more
difficult when you’re not able to be down effectively with your fastball
and I just wasn’t able to put anybody away,” Vargas said. “It was just
the inability to get the ball down late in the count and make quality
pitches that got me today.”

Jennings gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead,
driving Vargas’ second pitch of the third inning to left-center for his
12th homer this season and second RBI in 46 at-bats since coming off the
DL on Aug. 19.

Vargas walked his next two batters and
Delmon Young followed with a single that loaded the bases for James
Loney, who came in with a major league-best .363 average on the road.
Loney grounded into a 5-2-3 double play started by rookie Luis Jimenez
and rookie Wil Myers struck out to end the inning.

Ben Zobrist increased the margin to 4-1
in the fourth with a two-out, two-run double in the fourth, and Vargas
was replaced by Juan Gutierrez after giving up singles to his first two
batters in the fifth.

“Like all of our starters, you want to
give Jason an opportunity to win or lose a game if he can get to a
certain point,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “It certainly wasn’t a pitch
count issue, but it was how he was throwing the ball. We knew it was
going to be a struggle for him. I think Jason made some good pitches
early and then was in the heart of the plate a little bit, his changeup
was up a little bit.”

The Angels got their run in the second
when Erick Aybar led off with a double and scored on a throwing error by
second baseman Zobrist, whose relay to first on a potential
inning-ending double play got past Loney. It was Zobrist’s second
throwing error in his last five games, following an 81-game errorless
streak at that position.

NOTES:
The Rays’ fourth-inning rally ended a stretch of 52 innings in which
they had more than two hits only once. They scored in six consecutive
innings despite going 3 for 20 with runners in scoring position. …
Angels C Chris Iannetta started in the second spot in the batting order
for the first time in his eight-year career, and was 0 for 3 with three
strikeouts and a walk. Iannetta — the only player in the majors with
more walks (62) than hits (57) and at least 100 at-bats — became the
ninth different player manager Mike Scioscia has started in the two hole
this season.