Moore gets best of Pujols in game's key moment

Moore gets best of Pujols in game's key moment

Moore gets best of Pujols in game's key moment
ANAHEIM -- Call the fifth inning what you will -- a Maalox moment for Rays manager Joe Maddon or a defining moment for Matt Moore. One thing was certain, you could almost hear the ker-thump, ker-thump of the rookie southpaw's heart when Albert Pujols stepped to the plate with one out and the bases loaded.

Moore had a three-run lead at the time and every one of the 41,232 Angels fans watching wanted to see the veteran slugger spoil Moore's outing with one swing of his mighty bat.

He did not, and the Rays came away with a 3-0 win over the Angels at Angel Stadium.

By winning, the Rays moved to 3-2 on the current road trip while improving to 52-49 on the season.

Moore held the Angels to four hits while striking out six in 6 1/3 innings to pick up his seventh win of the season. However, everything else he did Saturday night paled in comparison to his great escape in the fifth.

"That's where the game either changes against you or stays the way it had been going," said Moore.

The fifth started innocently enough when Moore retired Maicer Izturis on a groundout to second. Bobby Wilson then doubled to left and Mike Trout reached on an error by third baseman Ryan Roberts. When Torii Hunter walked to load the bases, the situation quickly turned into Deep Gulp City.

Moore didn't lose his mind, instead he considered the situation.

"I really needed a ground ball," Moore said. "He doesn't run particularly well. So I felt like we could have turned a couple of different ones and got out of that situation."

Moore fell behind 1-0 to Pujols before reversing the count to 1-2. Pujols then popped up to shortstop Sean Rodriguez for the second out of the inning -- the infield fly rule was in effect. While Moore managed to retire Pujols, Mark Trumbo was next and the bases were still loaded.

That's when Moore uncorked a pitch that escaped Jose Molina. Wilson took off for home while the Rays catcher gave chase to retrieve the ball. The ball ricocheted off the backstop, Molina scooped and fired to Moore, who tagged Wilson at the plate for the third out, albeit one the Angels disputed.

"That was a huge play to end the inning," Moore said. "I was probably a little too pumped up for that particular moment. I think I yanked a fastball. It took a good bounce to him and he gave me a perfect throw. We practice those plays during Spring Training. ... It was a good feeling to bring my glove around and see Wilson just barely sliding there on his chest."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia called the fifth a great opportunity for his team.

"Moore made some tough pitches to Albert," Scioscia said. "Then the wild pitch, we didn't get the call at home. So it's a tough way to get out of that inning. We definitely had some momentum on our side. Those guys got out of it."

Maddon simply marveled at his 23-year-old hurler.

"The big part about that was how well Matt Moore maintained his composure there," Maddon said.

C.J. Wilson started for the Angels and the Rays scratched across a run in the first when Desmond Jennings doubled to left to lead off the game and moved to third on B.J. Upton's bunt single. Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly to right scored Jennings to give the Rays their early lead.

The Angels gifted the Rays a run in the second. Wilson walked the leadoff batter, Rodriguez, who promptly stole second and advanced to third on the play thanks to an errant throw by catcher Bobby Wilson. Matt Joyce then popped up to Izturis, but the Angels shortstop dropped the ball and Rodriguez walked home with the Rays' second run.

Zobrist added to the lead with two outs in the third when he powered a 3-2 pitch over the wall in center for his 12th home run of the season, putting the Rays up 3-0.

"I hit it hard, so I thought he was either going to make a running catch on it or it was going to get over his head," Zobrist said of Trout, the center fielder. "So I was just thankful it got over his head. When he jumped up, I'm like, 'You've gotta be kidding me. Please, not another one of these.' But, I was thankful it got over."

Jake McGee took over for the Rays after Moore got the first out in the seventh. McGee then struck out Wilson and Trout in order to end the inning. Joel Peralta pitched a scoreless eighth and Fernando Rodney retired the Angels in order in the ninth to preserve the win while earning his 29th save of the season.

As for Moore, he came away from the outing with a lesson well learned.

"You don't want to get the bases loaded with Pujols coming up," he said.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.