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Rays

Moore stops another Rays slide in Chicago

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Published:   |   Updated: April 28, 2013 at 01:43 AM
CHICAGO -

The struggling Tampa Bay Rays turned to their stopper Saturday night, their one sure thing during this first month of the season.

That would be left-hander Matt Moore, who had stopped every one of the Rays' losing streaks this season.

That streak continued as Moore pitched the Rays to a 10-4 victory against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

Moore is now 5-0 with an American League-low 1.13 ERA. Just as important, he's 4-0 in games following a Rays loss.

"There's not much to speak about that; we had however many runs and however many hits," Moore said. "We were going to knock the brakes off somebody and it happened to be my night to pitch."

The Rays pounded out a season-high 19 hits - their most since June 26, 2011 at Houston - as they snapped a two-game losing streak and won for only the third time in 13 road games. It was also a season high for runs.

Evan Longoria and Kelly Johnson matched their career highs with four hits each as every player in the lineup but Jose Molina, who left the game after getting hit by a pitch in the fourth inning, had at least one hit.

"Offensively, a pretty good night up and down (the lineup)," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "A lot of guys had great nights. ... Just a really interesting offensive night and hopefully we're going to gain some confidence from that."

The Rays extended their streak of consecutive games with a home run to 13 with Ben Zobrist's two-run homer in the first inning. The team record is 15, set in 2009.

The Rays' 22 home runs since April 16 are the most in the majors.

True to form, the Rays scored first, just as they had in the first two games of this series. The difference this time was the Rays added to the lead and added to the lead and held on to the lead.

Of course, Moore made that possible by holding the White Sox to a run on three hits through six innings. He matched his season high with nine strikeouts.

"When he really gets a good feel for where his fastball is going heads-up, the other stuff he feels really good about," Maddon said. "Fastball command makes the world go around for a pitcher. So it's getting better and as it continues to get better he's going to even get better beyond the numbers you're seeing now."

Moore walked Alejandro De Aza to start the first inning, then struck out the next six White Sox batters. The streak of consecutive strikeouts was one shy of the team record set June 10, 2007, by Andy Sonnanstine.

Adam Dunn got the first White Sox hit off Moore, a two-out solo home run to center field in the fourth inning.

That run pushed Moore's ERA 1.13. He entered the game leading the majors in ERA with 1.04 and left with the AL lead.

That 1.13 ERA is the second-lowest in any month by a Rays pitcher. Jeff Niemann holds the record with a 1.06 ERA in July 2011.

Moore also became the first pitcher in team history to win five games in April, and he holds the Rays' ERA title for the month of April. Moore is now tied with David Price (June 2012) and Scott Kazmir (May 2008) for the most wins in any month.

Obviously, Moore is also the first Ray to begin a season 5-0.

"He keeps getting better," Maddon said. "I know (his previous start) he pitched (eight) innings but he might have been just as good, maybe a little bit better, because I thought his overall command was better. I thought he pitched well, gaining more confidence in everything he's doing out there.

"Of course, 5-0 right now is pretty awesome. There's no getting around that."

He's now stopped team losing streaks of three, four and two games.

"We know he's got those kind of abilities," Maddon said. "I was just thinking briefly in the dugout. I remembered spring training there was all this concern about him in camp. He was not very sharp in camp, but as the season's been in progress he's built upon each outing. Even though he's won those earlier outings, he's still built upon each outing, he's gotten better with them.

"It's been kind of fun to watch."

Moore had plenty of help from the offense, especially Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and James Loney, the 3-4-5 hitters who combined to go 9-for-16 with two doubles, a home run, five RBI, two walks and five runs Saturday.

Zobrist gave Tampa Bay a quick 2-0 lead with his second homer of the season and first since Opening Day. Loney, who entered the game batting .358 and finished at .379, singled home Longoria in the third inning. Longoria had doubled off Hector Santiago, the left-hander who replaced starter Chicago starter Gavin Floyd.

An RBI single in the fifth inning by Johnson scored Longoria to make it a 4-1 game.

Desmond Jennings, given Friday night off because Maddon felt the center fielder needed a rest, homered in the sixth for a 5-1 lead.

The Rays scored twice in the seventh inning when Johnson tripled with one out and scored on a single by Jose Lobaton. Lobaton replaced Molina after Molina suffered a right quad contusion when hit by a pitch in the fourth inning.

Lobaton, who advanced to third on a single by Sam Fuld and a throwing error by Chicago shortstop Alexie Ramirez, came home on a wild pitch to make it 7-1.

It became an 8-1 lead in the eighth when Johnson singled home Loney.

The Rays bullpen wasn't quite as efficient as Moore, but Jake McGee was able to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning.

Kyle Farnsworth wasn't as fortunate in the eighth. He allowed the White Sox to load the bases with one out on a pair of walks and an infield single. Consecutive singles to center field drove in a pair of runs to make it an 8-3 game.

It became 8-4 game when Joel Peralta, who replaced Farnsworth, struck out the first batter he faced but then walked in a run.

The 25,270 at the Cell were getting excited during the White Sox's three-run eighth inning, and why not? Across town earlier in the day the Bulls used a 16-2 run at the end of regulation to force overtime during their three-overtime win against the Brooklyn Nets during their NBA playoff series.

RBI singles by Longoria and Loney in the ninth inning completed the scoring, and Cesar Ramos, making a rare appearance, retired the White Sox in the ninth to end the 3 hour, 39 minute game.

The Rays came within three outs of being just the fifth team in major league history to not record an assist in a nine-inning game. But White Sox second baseman Tyler Greene grounded out to shortstop, and Zobrist recorded the first assist from a Rays player.

The Rays' offensive production nearly overshadowed Moore's night. His five wins are nearly half of the team's 11, and he has prevented the Rays from enduring longer losing streaks.

"Obviously he can't sustain all of this, but there's more in Moore," Maddon said. "As his fastball continues to go where he wants it to he can get hot for a long time."

rmooney@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7227

Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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