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A's batter Rays' Moore, claim series

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 05:19 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

What were the odds of Sunday afternoon suddenly going sour? The Tampa Bay Rays put up four runs in the first inning. Rookie left-hander Matt Moore looked brilliant, needing just 10 pitches to mow down the first three batters.

"Nine times out of 10, we win that game," first baseman Carlos Peña said.

"Nine times out of 10, yes … 99 times out of 100, yes," right fielder Matt Joyce said.

"If we pitch our normal game, we win," manager Joe Maddon said. "When you score four in the first and you've got a really good arm on the mound, it's kind of difficult when that goes away from you."

After a blink-and-you'll-miss-it turnaround, when the Oakland Athletics shelled Moore and rallied for a 9-5 victory before 23,873 fans at Tropicana Field, the Rays chalked it up to abnormal circumstances.

And so did Moore (1-2, 5.71 ERA), even after allowing eight earned runs in the shortest stint (42/3 innings) of his young professional career.

"This kind of game, it's not what I'm about," Moore said. "I'm not going to give up these kind of runs (often). I'm not going to beat up on the bullpen. I know these things, so I'm OK.

"Obviously, this hurts for the team. I hurt because it's a team loss, not because it's a Matt loss."

The Rays fell out of first place in the American League East after the Baltimore Orioles prevailed 9-6 in a 17-inning game at Boston.

But to Maddon, especially at this juncture of a long season, those are unnecessary details.

The Rays had won five consecutive series before losing two of three games against Oakland. After capturing 10 straight games at the Trop, one shy of the club's home record set in 2008, the Rays have dropped two in a row.

"It was still a great homestand (5-2), especially with the way we've started the season with a little bit of adversity strapped to our back," Maddon said. "Oakland just played better than we did today. It happens."

But usually, it doesn't happen in this manner.

Moore, staked to the four-run lead, set down his first five batters before scuffling with his fastball command.

He unraveled in the third inning, when Oakland scored five runs. A two-out walk to Josh Reddick gave the A's two base runners. Yoenis Cespedes and Jonny Gomes, the ex-Ray, followed with RBI singles. Then Moore worked to 3-and-1 on third baseman Brandon Inge, who sized up the fastball and stroked a three-run homer 405 feet to left field, putting Oakland ahead 5-4.

"Matt just got out of whack," Maddon said. "He couldn't throw the fastball where he wanted to throw it. He had Inge backed into a corner, but continued to challenge him. Inge timed him up and got him."

"Brandon Inge has obviously been around for a while and he knows how to put them in the seats," Moore said. "He knew what to do with a high fastball, especially after he timed up four of them."

Moore lasted into the fifth inning, but things got no better. Gomes delivered an RBI double, then Daric Barton slammed a two-run double on Moore's 105th (and last) pitch of the afternoon.

The deflated vibe was the polar opposite of how Tampa Bay's afternoon began.

"I think everybody was thinking the same thing," Joyce said. "Four runs in the first. Matt pitches a great first inning. I guess it was like, 'We're rolling,' right?"

It sure seemed that way.

Oakland starter Tommy Milone nearly was lifted in the first inning, when he threw 41 pitches. Three walks and a hit batsman put him in deep trouble. Jeff Keppinger's sacrifice fly, Sean Rodriguez's RBI hit and Joyce's two-run single had the A's scrambling. It could've been worse, but Chris Gimenez bounced into an inning-ending double play.

Milone said the double play turned it around for him.

Who knew?

Who knew Moore's outing would go south? Who knew the Rays would produce only one more run, a fifth-inning homer by B.J. Upton?

"It was one of those days," Peña said.

And one that normally isn't seen around the Trop.

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