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Thu, Jun 21, 2012 - 7:05 PM ET
 

Rays-Nationals Preview

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The pitcher's mound at Nationals Park has been a hotbed of excitement in the first two games between the Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals.

It looks like the same could be true in the series finale.

The Rays' Matt Moore tries to win a fourth straight start and build on the best outing of his brief career Thursday night when he squares off against Gio Gonzalez.

Tampa Bay (38-30) won Tuesday's opener 5-4 in a game that will be most remembered for the ejection of reliever Joel Peralta for having pine tar on his glove. The umpires converged on the mound prior to the start of the eighth inning after Nationals manager Davey Johnson asked them to inspect Peralta's glove.

Rays manager Joe Maddon was furious after the game, calling Johnson's actions "cowardly,'' "bush'' and "bogus.'' Johnson knew about the pine tar because he had inside information on Peralta, who pitched for the Nationals in 2010.

No gloves were checked Wednesday, on a night when Washington's Stephen Strasburg struck out 10 over seven innings in a 3-2 victory to earn his ninth win. The Rays countered with Chris Archer, who allowed three runs and three hits - all in the first inning - in his major league debut. Peralta, who was suspended eight games Thursday but is appealing the ban, entered Wednesday's game wearing Jeremy Hellickson's glove and retired the two batters he faced in the eighth.

Bryce Harper drove in his 20th run and came around to score for Washington, which didn't record another hit after the first inning but still managed to snap a four-game losing streak. Facing Moore (4-5, 4.16 ERA) might again pose problems for the Nationals (39-27), who are batting .190 with 13 total runs in the last five games.

In his 14th start since debuting last September, Moore allowed one hit and three walks while striking out eight in seven innings of an 11-0 win over Miami on Friday.

"It feels like it's been a while since I've had all three pitches throughout the night,'' Moore said. "It's a lot more fun to pitch like that."

Although Moore claims he hasn't had his best stuff lately, the 22-year-old left-hander hasn't pitched terribly. Friday's outing was the fourth time in five starts he yielded two earned runs or fewer, which has trimmed more than a run off his ERA from 5.20.

One area Moore is still looking to improve upon is his walks. He averages 4.28 per nine innings, the fourth-worst mark in the AL.

Base on balls have also been a problem for Gonzalez (8-3, 2.52), who averages 3.66 per nine innings, the NL's ninth-worst mark. Although both pitchers have control issues, both also get their share of strikeouts.

Gonzalez ranks third in baseball with an average of 11.10 strikeouts per nine innings, while Moore averages 9.40, the majors' ninth-best mark.

Gonzalez hasn't been quite as sharp this month, going 1-2 with a 4.24 ERA in three starts after opening the year 7-1 with a 2.04 ERA. Against the Yankees on Friday, the left-hander allowed three runs, five hits and two walks while striking out eight in six innings of a 7-2 loss.

Tampa Bay catcher Jose Molina, who homered Wednesday, Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton are a combined 2 for 22 lifetime against Gonzalez.

Tagged: Nationals, Rays, Joel Peralta, Gio Gonzalez

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