Rays-Orioles Preview

Matt Moore continues to pile up wins for the Tampa Bay Rays. One

more would put him in a class by himself.

Looking to become the first pitcher in team history to win nine

straight decisions, Moore tries to lead the visiting Rays to a

three-game sweep of the slumping Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

After giving up a three-run homer in the first, Moore (7-0, 2.44

ERA) allowed one hit over the next five innings Tuesday in a 5-3

win over Boston. The 23-year-old left-hander struck out eight and

walked two, becoming the first Rays starter to open 7-0.

“The first inning wasn’t as heartbreaking as you would think,”

he said. “It’s one of those things where you have faith in our team

and what our offense is going to do, and as long as I put up zeroes

and leave their lead at three, we’re going to make it interesting

down the road.”

On the verge of becoming the AL’s first eight-game winner, Moore

is 8-0 with a 2.19 ERA over nine starts dating to September. While

he’s issued 4.69 walks per nine innings, Moore has limited

opponents to a league-low .172 average.

“It’s pretty incredible. … Matt’s been wonderful, and again

he’s going to keep getting better. There’s more within Moore,”

manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve talked a little bit about the

command issue, but he doesn’t give up a lot of hits. He might walk

a couple of guys, but they’re not beating him up with hits. So

there’s kind of a balance there.”

Moore allowed two runs and five hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 6-2

win at Baltimore on April 17, improving to 3-1 with a 2.05 ERA over

his last four starts in the series. While he’s held Nate McLouth

hitless in six at-bats, Moore will need to be wary of Matt Wieters,

who is 6 for 11 with two homers against him.

The Rays could certainly use another impressive showing from

Moore after Saturday’s starter Roberto Hernandez was pulled after

two-plus innings. Relievers Cesar Ramos, Alex Torres and Josh

Lueke, though, combined to allow one run the rest of the way and

Tampa Bay scored six times in the ninth during a 10-6 victory.

Matt Joyce homered and hit a go-ahead two-run double, leading

the Rays to their season-high third straight road victory – all of

them coming in come-from-behind fashion. Tampa Bay has scored 30

runs while going 18 for 36 with runners in scoring position over

that stretch.

“We believe in each other, and then you’re able to do those

things,” Maddon said. “If you stop believing, if you don’t think it

can’t happen, then it never will. If you think it can happen, then

it shall. And that’s pretty much what this group’s been about.”

Losers of a season-worst four straight, the Orioles’

franchise-record streak of 109 straight wins when leading after

seven innings was snapped. Baltimore has compiled an 8.00 ERA

during its skid.

The Orioles will try to regroup behind Chris Tillman (3-1,

3.40). After winning three straight starts, the right-hander

allowed one run, four hits and struck out seven over seven innings

but didn’t factor in the decision of Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to San

Diego.

Tillman is 1-4 with a 5.06 ERA over eight starts versus Tampa

Bay and allowed four runs in five innings losing to Moore last

month.

Tillman can’t be excited about facing Evan Longoria, who’s 7 for

15 with three homers against him. The slugging third baseman is

batting .396 with three homers during a career best-tying 12-game

hitting streak.

Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy has hit safely in his last 13 games,

going 18 for 50 (.360) with five homers.