Moore stretches out in best start of season

Pitcher delivers seven scoreless frames vs. Astros

Moore stretches out in best start of season

ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Moore had a big smile on his face as he got up off the ground and threw to first base to start the sixth inning. The lefty pitcher looked goofy falling to the dirt as he both protected himself and retired George Springer after a sharp grounder made its way right back where it came from.

Moore had a reason to grin. That play, and the five outs after and 15 outs before combined to mark his best start of the season. Seven shutout innings in a 5-0 win gave the Rays their seventh win in nine games.

"We are deep enough in the season that you can kind of expect to be stretched out a little bit in those moments," Moore said. "… Anytime you can keep the team in the game with the opportunity to win, you have to be happy for that. Today was that."

Moore's quick glove

Moore had 114 pitches, including 37 in a laborious second inning. But he worked quickly over the next five, striking out 10, and the Astros only recorded two hits on the afternoon. Enny Romero got an out and Tyler Sturdevant recorded the last five. But the "story of the day" was Moore, Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

He had allowed five runs in his previous start and had just three perfect frames over his past 34 innings. On Sunday, he had four perfect innings.

"He was very efficient," Cash said. "He was on pace to go five innings and max out because of pitch count alone, but he did a tremendous job of resetting, attacking the strike zone."

Pitching coach Jim Hickey came to Cash before the game and told him that Moore's curveball was working during the pregame bullpen. It was a sign of things to come for the hard-throwing lefty, whose fastball was also sitting at 95 mph but got to 96.

"He threw it by us. He used his fastball and really dominated us with his fastball," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He had a pretty good breaking ball going too, but he had his power stuff going."

Sam Blum is a reporter for based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.