BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – Rookie Matt Moore dominated the Rangers in just his second Major League start as the Tampa Bay Rays took game one of this best of five ALDS series, 9-0. A crowd of 50,498, the largest crowd of 2011 and the 12th largest crowd in Rangers’ history, witnessed the game. Rangers’ starter C. J. Wilson surrendered three home runs in a very disappointing start, and the Rangers managed just two hits in the game.
Rays’ manager Joe Maddon surprised many with his decision to start Moore, who was in the minor leagues three weeks ago, and who was not expected to be on the Rays’ post season roster. With the Rays fighting through the last game of the season to make the playoffs, Maddon had found just three appearances for the talented pitcher, including one start. Moore had pitched a total of 9.1 Major League innings, but Friday afternoon he looked poised and relaxed as he mowed down the Rangers over seven innings allowing just two hits, both to Josh Hamilton, and two walks.
Wilson zipped through a three-up, three-down first inning with just nine pitches, but his performance was downhill from there. He gave up three runs in the second, and three more in the third. He hit Ben Zobrist leading off the second on an 0-2 pitch, and Johnny Damon followed with a home run down the right field line. Catcher Kelly Shoppach later scored on a Matt Joyce single for the third run of the inning. Shoppach from Ft. Worth Brewer High School and a former All-American at Baylor, hit a three run home run in the third to straight away center field. The light hitting back stop had a career day. He hit a second home run to left field in the fifth with a runner aboard, to finish the day 3-5 with two home runs, five RBIs and three runs scored.
After the first inning, Wilson struggled with his command. He constantly nibbled around the plate getting behind in counts and running up his pitch total. He went to a three ball count to eight of the 25 batters he faced on the day, and left after five innings having thrown 103 pitches.
Meanwhile the Rangers did nothing offensively. Josh Hamilton singled with two outs in the first. He doubled leading off the fourth. That was it for the Rangers’ attack. The team that led the Majors with a .320 batting average in the month of September was just 2-29 Friday.
The result of starting Moore was that the Rays have their three best starting pitchers available to start all four of the remaining games of the series, if it goes that far, on normal rest. “Big Game” James Shields starts game two Saturday, a game that starts at 6:07 PM CDT and will be televised on TNT, not TBS as previously indicated at Ranger Rap. Jeremy Hellickson and David Price are available for games three and four in some order, and with the two travel days, Shields can pitch game five on regular rest.
Derek Holland goes for Texas Saturday in the most important start of his career. Tampa is effectively playing with “house money” at this point in the series. Their goal was to get a split in the two games in Texas. They have that, and now they have the opportunity to take full charge of this series with a game two win Saturday.