Posted July 11, 2013

Matt Moore’s big day: gets win, named to All-Star team. Starting nod to follow?

All-Star Game, Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
Matt Moore, Rays

Matt Moore is tied with the Tigers’ Max Scherzer for the AL lead with 13 wins. (AP)

At Tropicana Field on Thursday afternoon, Matt Moore, the Rays’ 25-year-old lefty, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Twins and ran his streak of scoreless innings to 22 1/3 before surrendering a run. After notching 10 strikeouts and securing his 13th win in Tampa Bays 4-3 victory — its eight straight triumph — he was named to the American League All-Star team to replace the injured Yu Darvish.

Moore buzzed through the lineup of the hapless Twins, who came in having lost 10 of their last 11 games. He struck out four hitters in his first time through the order, needing only 31 pitches to do so, and didn’t allow a baserunner until walking Joe Mauer with two outs in the fourth. He allowed his first hit with two outs in the sixth, a double by Brian Dozier, and then surrendered a game-tying RBI single to Jamey Carroll before striking out Mauer for the second time of the day. He threw 22 pitches in that inning, the only time he needed more than 15 to get through a frame. He rebounded to strike out two of three Twins in the seventh, but ran out of gas in the eighth, issuing a one-out walk to Clete Thomas and then a single to Pedro Florimon before being lifted.

In all, Moore got 16 swings and misses out of his 106 pitches according to the PITCHf/x data at BrooksBaseball.net. Five came via his four-seam fastball, which averaged 93.9 mph; he threw a total of 46 four-seamers and another 12 two-seamers. Nine swings and misses came from among his 25 changeups, continuing his recent trend of featuring the change as his primary offspeed pitch. By comparison, he threw 15 sliders, only two of which netted swings and misses.

The outing was the deepest Moore pitched into a game since April 22, when he threw eight innings against the Yankees. It was his fifth straight quality start since an ugly three-start stretch in early June in which he allowed 20 runs in 12 1/3 innings, nearly doubling his ERA (from 2.18 to 4.12) in the process. Currently, he has a 3.44 mark while striking out 9.1 per nine, a rate that ranks eighth in the league. With the outing, he has now allowed one home run in his last 59 1/3 innings, covering a total of 11 starts.

Moore joins an AL All-Star team that is already loaded with starters. Clay Buchholz and Darvish are injured and Bartolo Colon will pitch Sunday, ruling him out as a participant on Tuesday, but Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Justin Masterson, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are all on the roster.

As to who will take the mound first for the AL at the Midsummer Classic, neither NL manager Bruce Bochy nor AL manager Jim Leyland has tabbed his starting pitcher yet. While much attention has been focused on whether or not the Mets’ Matt Harvey will take the ball for the NL, there’s been comparatively less discussion of who should start for the AL. Scherzer, who is tied for the league lead with 13 wins (and has no losses) and who ranks second in strikeout rate (10.6 per nine), third in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.0) and fourth in Wins Above Replacement (3.9) would seem to be the obvious choice, particularly with his own manager making the call. However, he’s scheduled to start for the Tigers on Saturday. From a story in the Central Michigan Morning Sun:

Leyland has said, even though those pitchers who start the Sunday before the All-Star Game are eligible to pitch, if their team OKs it, he won’t pitch them. He also won’t pitch any Saturday starter more than an inning, meaning that his own Max Scherzer — 13-0 after Wednesday’s win — may not be eligible for the honor of starting the All-Star Game.

That pitcher will need to be able to go at least two innings, the manager has said.

From among the other starters, Hernandez and Iwakuma are scheduled to start for the Mariners on Saturday and Sunday, while Verlander is set to go for the Tigers on Sunday as well. That would appear to narrow the choice to Masterson, Moore and Sale. Statistically, the 24-year-old White Sox’ southpaw would appear to have the upper hand, given that he came into the day leading the league in WAR (4.5), and after striking out eight while allowing three runs in 6 2/3 innings in a win over Detroit, he’s fourth in strikeout rate (9.8 per nine), and a close fifth in ERA (2.85, just 0.16 behind league leader Hernandez). Across the board, those numbers are stronger than those of Moore (who had 1.7 WAR coming into the day) or Masterson (2.2 WAR, 3.78 ERA, 9.1 strikeouts per nine).

There doesn’t appear to be a timetable for Leyland and Bochy to announce their starting pitchers. But after Moore’s latest gem, Leyland must at least now give serious consideration to a man who wasn’t even on his roster when Thursday began.

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