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Rays notes: Tough challenge awaits in Texas

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 04:29 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The Tampa Bay Rays begin a three-game road series at 8:05 tonight against the Texas Rangers, who have the majors' best record (15-4).

The Rangers also eliminated the Rays from the AL playoffs in 2010 and 2011.

"They're just really good, and they keep getting better,'' Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "Last year, the way it ended (in the postseason), there were two one-run games they beat us. I think it's two evenly matched teams. They have beaten us. Hats off to them, absolutely. But we believe we're right there with them.''

Rays RHP James Shields, tonight's starter who is 5-2 lifetime against Texas, said the Rangers are dangerous.

"They've gotten off to a hot start, for sure,'' Shields said. "That's one team you just can't take lightly. You go out there and pitch your game. If you make mistakes, they're going to hit you.''

Games on Saturday and Sunday are also at 8:05 p.m. Sunday's game is slated for ESPN.  

Moore's winless April no concern

Shortly after the Rays had clinched a dramatic 4-3 walk-off victory against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field, rookie LHP Matt Moore stood by his locker and smiled.

"April is over,'' Moore said.

At least for him.

Maybe it wasn't the kind of month expected for someone already mentioned as a favorite for American League Rookie of the Year. Moore was 0-1 with a 4.68 ERA.

But he was encouraged after taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning against the Angels. Moore was undone by Mark Trumbo's home run to lead off the fifth, then two runs in the sixth, including an RBI double by Trumbo.

For the first time in Moore's four starts this season, the Rays won. Brandon Allen's pinch-hit, two-run homer in the ninth took Moore off the hook.

"I felt like the timing of all my stuff was better,'' Moore said. "Yes, I think this was (a positive step).''

 Maddonsaid Moore's stuff reminded him of 2011, when the pitcher made an instant impact by striking out 11 in his major-league debut, then winning a postseason game.

The winless April? No worries.

"If he keeps pitching like that … the Carnac thing … I can see many wins in his future,'' Maddon said.

Joyce swinging a hot bat

RF Matt Joyce (.322) was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI triple. He has hit safely in 10 of the past 12 games, batting .385 (15-for-39 during that span). He has seven extra-base hits in his past seven games.

"I feel like I'm getting more confident in the pitchers I'm facing,'' Joyce said. "I'm learning a lot from year to year. I'm growing. Combine all those things and you're going to have success."

Noteworthy

Allen hit the fourth pinch-hit, walk-off homer in Rays history. The others: Bubba Trammell (2002), Eduardo Perez (2005) and B.J. Upton (2007). … The Rays are 8-1 at home to start the season for the first time. They have won 20 of their past 23 regular-season home games. … The Rays have a 2.12 ERA over the past 10 games while lowering their team ERA from a season-high 6.75 to 4.25. … Angels 1B Albert Pujols broke an 0-for-21 slump with a sixth-inning single (he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double). Dating to last season, Pujols has gone 105 at-bats without a homer. … Rays LF Desmond Jennings has a career-high eight-game hitting streak.

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