After carving the New York Yankees batting order up for 7 innings, Matt Moore figured that his night was probably over because he was already sitting at 105 total pitches. But Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon had other ideas, running his 23-year-old ace back out to the mound to face the Yankees in the 8th. Maddon’s faith was rewarded with a clinically dominant inning from Moore.
The left-hander shut that Yankees down 1-2-3, needing just 12 pitches to do so before yielding to the bullpen for the 9th inning. Moore finished the game with a beautiful stat line for a pitcher: 8 innings, 1 run allowed on just 2 hits, with 9 strikeouts to go against 3 walks. The only Yankee hitter that didn’t look completely overwhelmed at the plate was all-world 2nd baseman Robinson Cano, who had the Yankees 2 hits on the day.
This type of dominance is becoming par for the course for Matt Moore. Moore became the first starter in Rays history to win his first four starts of a season and he’s the first AL pitcher 23-years-old or younger to go 4-0 in his first four starts of a season since Jered Weaver pulled the trick in 2006. Moore has now thrown 26 innings on the season to go along with a 1.04 ERA. The lefty has struck out 29 batters compared to just 14 walks and he’s allowed just 3.46 hits per 9 innings pitched which is the best ratio in baseball.
Those numbers aren’t just representative of a pitcher that’s at the top of his game, they’re representative of a pitcher that’s threatening to overpower the league. Moore has some of the best raw stuff in baseball. His fastball can top out at a blistering 97 mph and he usual doesn’t need all that cheese, opting instead to settle it down around the 93-95 mph mark and hitters still can’t touch it.
Moore leans heavily on the pitch as well, throwing it nearly 2/3rds of the time and hitters still haven’t gotten themselves sorted out against his fastball. Opposing batters have gone just 8 for 42 against Moore’s 4-seamer this season, with just two of those hits going for extra bases. That’s sheer dominance and it doesn’t stop there either.
Moore’s breaking pitches have been strong this season as well. Moore’s change-up has yet to be put in play for a hit, thanks in part to the fantastic command he’s had of the pitch during his first 4 starts. Opposing batters are 0-17 with 8 strikeouts against the pitch thanks in part to the fear they have of his fastball. According to the good folks over at Brooks Baseball, Moore threw 17 change-ups to the Yankees with a whopping 13 of them going for strikes. When he’s got that kind of command of even one of his secondary pitches it’s going to be a long night for the hitters in the opposing dugout.
Moore has basically stuck to the fastball-heavy formula in all 4 of his starts, shutting down solid offensive attacks each time he takes the field. After the Yankees game Moore had this to say:
“I think that I was able to get ahead with my fastball and just really use my offspeed pitches the way they were meant to be used,” Moore said. “I felt just as good — if not better — out there in the seventh and eighth innings than I did in the first and second.”
That kind of strength through the late innings is what separates the very, very good pitchers from the elite aces. Moore is already turning into the pitcher the Rays were hoping he would be a couple of Octobers ago when a then 21-year-old rookie was shutting down the Texas Rangers in the ALDS. “That’s what you envision,” said manager Joe Maddon. “Stuff-wise, that’s what we’ve been looking for.” If Moore can continue to throw the ball this well, the rest of the American League needs to be on watch, because right now Tampa has a 23-year-old freight train poised to dominant the league for years to come.