Seems like Tampa Bay ace Matt Moore has come back down to earth since his 8 consecutive wins to start the season without a loss. Moore tries to avoid losing a career worst-tying fourth consecutive start as the Tampa Bay Rays (37-35) open a four-game set against the New York Yankees (39-32) on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
It's been to say the least a tough June for Moore (8-3 4.12) who posted just a 2.18 ERA during his unbeaten run. He's lost all 3 of his outings this month and has yielded 19 ER in just 12 IP (14.25) over that span as well as 11 BB. Something that manager Joe Maddon has addressed several times this season is his erratic control (4.75 BB per game) especially with runners on base that has dug himself an early hole. In Friday's 7-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals, Moore lasted only a shade over 5 innings giving up 5 ER on 7 hits. Still most including Maddon and the pitching staff believe that Moore will turn things around and will get past a typical mid-season slump.
Moore faces a Yankee lineup that resembles the word erratic as best as the laundry list of injuries that currently haunts them. NY is hitting just .239 on the season with 73 HR and are averaging a paltry 3.9 runs per contest. In fact nobody on the Yankees is even hitting close to .300 although Brett Gardner (.280 6 28) has been relatively consistent out of the starting lineup. Robinson Cano (.278 16 42) is having another solid season production wise, but lacks the protection in the lineup as well as the consistency that most would expect as evident by his batting average. Ichiro Suzuki (.270 3 14) is probably one of the hotter hitters on the team batting .455 over his last 5 games. Travis Hafner (.221 11 32) is battling injuries and a mid-season slump as is Vernon Wells (.224 10 27) who has gone ice cold after a hot start. Wells is just 6 for his last 56 (.107) and could be forcing Joe Girardi to giving him a day or two off.
The Yankees counter with Andy Pettitte (5-4 3.95) who at times has pitched a lot better than his record indicates. The 41 year old left-hander however has struggled mightily at home over his last 4 starts going 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA. Last time out Anaheim smoked him for 4 tuns on 11 hits in 7 innings. He'll face a Rays lineup who has shown signs of life as of late after a cold start. Tampa is hitting .259 with 82 HR and averaging about 4.8 runs per contest. Credit their contention in the AL East to heavy hitters Evan Longoria (.304 14 43) and Matt Joyce (.263 14 31) who have kept Tampa just 6 games behind in 4th place to this point. Longoria has not missed a beat since missing the first few weeks of the season putting up seasonal numbers despite dealing with plantar fasciitis. Desmond Jennings (.252 9 28) has made the most of his opportunities as has James Loney (.300 8 36) despite battling through a recent 1 for 21 slump (.048).
As the warmer dog days of summer approach we expect to see the ball fly a lot more over the short right field porch of Yankee Stadium as well as in left where the legends of Monument Park sit. We get a bit of a higher price this evening. The Rays will look to continue their recent offensive surge away from Tropicana Field in order to contend for the AL Wildcard and in the process perhaps catch division leading Boston. The Yankees on the other hand continue to be decimated with injuries and inefficiency in the lineup but with a struggling Moore looking to right the ship, anything is possible. Best of luck however you play as we attempt to arrive back at 67% on the season!