After passing his first Major League test, Matt Moore is set to take on the postseason. The Tampa Bay Rays announced yesterday that Moore will start game one of the ALDS, facing off against C.J. Wilson and the Texas Rangers in Arlington.
Tampa Bay was forced to use likely game one starters James Shields and David Price to close out the regular season and assure the Rays their spot in the playoffs. Desiring to keep his top arms on regular rest, Rays manager Joe Maddon will instead hand the ball to Moore in game one.
The rookie left-hander was called up during the beginning of September after Moore’s impressive Minor League campaign. In 2011, while splitting time between Double and Triple-A, Moore maintained an ERA of 1.92 and a 0.948 WHIP over his 27 combined starts.
Moore struck out 210 batters in his 155 innings pitched, good for a SO/9 ratio north of 12. What made this number all the more significant was the fact that Moore managed to keep his walk rate under three batters per nine innings. The difference allowed Moore to finish his Minor League season with a SO/BB ratio of 4.57.
Moore was also able to improve as his level of competition increased. After making the jump to Triple-A, Moore held an ERA of 1.37 over his nine starts and 52.2 innings of work, increasing his SO/9 to 13.5.
This incredible performance caused many to regard Moore as the top pitching prospect in the Minor’s, and earned the 22-year-old a September call up.
Originally, it looked like the Rays might use Moore in a role similar to that of David Price during their 2008 World Series run. Moore made his first two Major League appearances out of the bullpen, allowing three earned runs over his 4.4 innings of work.
Then, as the Rays continued their improbable late season charge, Moore was called upon to start a pivotal matchup with the New York Yankees last Thursday.
The game was held in Yankees stadium, but Moore was able to more than hold his own. The youngster logged five shutout innings, holding the Yankees to four hits. Moore struck out 11 batters while only offering a single free pass.
Moore’s debut performance left Maddon and the Rays feeling comfortable enough to hand him the ball during game one of the ALDS. Just like in his first start, Moore will be facing quite the challenge tonight. The Rangers have one of the league’s best offenses and seem to be especially potent playing at home.
It should be fun watching one of the game’s up-and-comers get his first taste of the playoffs against one of the best group of hitters in the league.
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