ALDS Game 1: Matt Moore Brilliant, Kelly Shoppach Surprising In 9-0 Rays Win

Rookie Matt Moore pitched seven shutout innings and Kelly Shoppach homered twice, and the Rays blew out the Rangers in the opening game of their Division Series.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Highlights From Friday's Game 1 Live-Blog

The Tampa Bay Rays traveled to Arlington to face the Texas Rangers for the first game of the 2011 MLB playoffs, riding the high of Wednesday night's walk-off win to secure the AL Wild Card. The Rays picked up right where they left off, pounding the Rangers to take Game 1 by a 9-0 margin.

Along the way, the Baseball Nation staff live-blogged the matchup, narrating the twists and turns of Game 1. Here are a few of the highlights.

Perhaps the best moment of the game occurred before the teams took the field. The young son of Shannon Stone, the man who fell to his death at Rangers Ballpark earlier this year, threw out the first pitch to Josh Hamilton. Because it can't be watched enough, here is the video again.

Game 1 started off slowly enough, with both pitchers recording scoreless first innings. Texas starter C.J. Wilson probably had the better inning, and it may have been the best part of his night.

C.J. Wilson was arguably twice as good as Matt Moore, though, as Wilson needed only nine pitches to dispatch the Rays in order, while Moore needed 18 pitches, in part because of Josh Hamilton’s single to left field.

It was all downhill for Wilson, though. In the second, Johnny Damon broke the scoreless tie, taking Wilson deep for a two-run home run to give the Rays the early lead. Damon was batting fifth, the first of many moves Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon made that worked to near perfection.

C.J. Wilson gave up only two home runs to left-handed hitters all season.

One of those was hit by Rays right fielder Matt Joyce.

Johnny Damon hit only six home runs against left-handed pitchers all season.

With a lead in hand, Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore settled in and began to mow down the Rangers' powerful lineup. The 22-year-old rookie was short on experience, and a questionable Game 1 starter, but he delivered early and often on Friday afternoon.

Still wondering about Joe Maddon's managerial choices? How about the decision to toss Kelly Shoppach into the lineup? Shoppach turned the Rays' 3-0 lead into a six-run advantage with one swing of the bat, taking Wilson deep to center field for a three-run home run.

But for whatever reason, Joe Maddon put Shoppach in the lineup to start Game One of the NLDS. And CJ Wilson threw a pretty good pitch  ... and Shoppach hit it out to dead center field for a three-run home run. The odds are now up to 2.6% that he's this year's Cody Ross.

As an aside, Shoppach's homer provided the first highlight of the night, turned in by an intrepid fan who snagged the home run in center, then promptly tossed it back.

In case you still weren't convinced about Maddon, Shoppach added a second home run -- this time of the two run variety -- to give the Rays an 8-0 lead in the fifth. So why was Shoppach batting sixth? Maddon had a hunch.

After that first home run, the TBS crew briefly interviewed Joe Maddon, who was queried about his decision to start Shoppach against Wilson. Maddon's response (paraphrased): "Shoppie's hit left-handers pretty well."

Moore cruised through the rest of his outing, striking out six and walking two while allowing just two hits in seven shutout innings. The Rangers went quietly and by the time it was all over, the Rays had a 9-0 lead in Game 1 to seize control of the seize right out of the gates.

For more on the game, check out the rest of the Game 1 live-blog and Grant Brisbee's recap.

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Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays Shut Out Texas Rangers In First Game Of ALDS

Tampa Bay thoroughly dominated the Texas Rangers in Game One of the ALDS behind a stellar performance from Matt Moore and a two-homer game from Kelly Shoppach.

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Rangers Down To Last 3 Outs

After 8½ innings, the Rangers are no longer trying to win.

Not really. Not down 9-0.

After 8½ innings, the Rangers would merely appreciate getting a runner to third base for the first time in Game 1.

Either way, they’re fortunate that there’s no such thing as momentum in baseball.

They’re unfortunate, in having to win three of four games, or have their season end a lot sooner than they would like.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Rays 8, Rangers 0, Bottom 7th

Having thrown only 81 pitches in six innings, Rays rookie Matt Moore has returned to the mound for the bottom of the seventh.

Moore, who pitched in only three major-league games before today, is just the third pitcher in major-league history to pitch in a postseason game with three or fewer games of major-league experience. And neither of the previous two — Ken Brett in 1967 and Charlie Leibrandt in 1979 — made a postseason start.

Which makes Moore unique.

After throwing 98 pitches, though, he’s probably finished.

He’s done plenty: seven shutout innings, two hits — both by Josh Hamilton — two walks and six strikeouts.

Obviously, we learned Wednesday night that anything can happen and it’s never over ‘til it’s over and that’s why they don’t have a clock and you have to just keep playing and maybe good things will happen and blah blah blah.

Realistically, Joe Maddon’s seriously unorthodox moves have given the Rays a big edge in this series already.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Kelly Shoppach Goes Deep ... Again?

Two things that didn't seem to go together, coming into Game 1:

Kelly Shoppach batted .176 in 2011. Kelly Shoppach batted .197 from 2009 through 2011. That's right, over three whole seasons Shoppach hasn't been over the Mendoza Line.

and

Kelly Shoppach is batting sixth -- ahead of three far superior hitters -- in the Tampa Bay Rays' Game 1 lineup today, against the Texas Rangers in their Division Series.

Well, they don't go together unless you're Kelly Shoppach. Or Joe Maddon. Or (now) anyone who roots for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Because after taking C.J. Wilson deep for a three-run homer in the third inning, Shoppach has done it again in the fifth, walloping a Wilson fastball over the left-field fence to give the Rangers an 8-0 lead.

After that first home run, the TBS crew briefly interviewed Joe Maddon, who was queried about his decision to start Shoppach against Wilson. Maddon's response (paraphrased): "Shoppie's hit left-handers pretty well."

Which he has. Shoppach's career line against lefties is .274/.373/.536, with 28 homers in 416 at-bats.

Which isn't to suggest that anyone would have predicted Shoppach's two-homer, five-RBI performance (so far) in this lid-lifter. But in case you haven't noticed already, Maddon's a pretty clever fellow.

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Rays' Matt Moore Nearly Untouchable In 2011

Matt Moore has pitched four shutout innings.

This is notable for at least three reasons.

One: He's pitching in what's easily the biggest game of his life, by a favor of some dozens.

Two: He's shutting out the Texas Rangers, one of the better-hitting teams in the American League.

Three: Moore entered Game 1 of this Division Series having started exactly one game in the major leagues. That was against the Yankees, and he shut them out for five innings before being excused. Which means Moore now has the following statistics as a starting pitcher against major-league hitters:

9 Innings
0 Runs
6 Hits
2 Walks
15 Strikeouts

That last one's italicized because I was afraid you might miss it, and I knew you wouldn't want to miss it.

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There's A Game On, Fellas

If I were to have dinner with one manager in Major League Baseball, it would be Jesus and Albert Einstein. Wait, what was the question?

No, if I were to have dinner with one manager in Major League Baseball, it would be Joe Maddon. Seems like a bright, interesting guy who could talk about baseball for hours without boring you. He's the rare combination of a guy who can command the respect of both athletes in the clubhouses, and analysts in their gilded palaces of smug.

But at no point would I ever, ever, ever, ever be interested in what he has to say while being interviewed by TBS as a playoff game is going on. He's not going to drop some brilliant piece of baseball wisdom on the national television audience. He's going to be as interested in the interview as he would be in paying toll.

To every network in existence: no one cares what managers are willing to say during an in-game interview. A machine that can read their brainwaves and analyze them in real-time? Oh, yeah. But you're not going to get what managers are really thinking in a ten-second interview.

Shouldn't complain too much about TBS. At least there aren't dancing robots. 

Oh, great. Now they're interviewing Ron Washington. Maybe he'll talk about what he really thinks about C.J. Wilson. 

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Rangers' First Highlight, Via Quick-Thinking Fan

With the Rangers down 6-0 in the fourth inning, at least there's this small bit of good news ...

They've got a fan in center field who's got good wheels, solid instincts, and a cannon for a throwing arm.

Here's what happened when Kelly Shoppach crushed a three-run homer to dead center:

Throwitback_medium

via gif.mocksession.com

There's a real good chance that this will be the most memorable thing in this entire game, for Rangers fans.

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Kelly Shoppach? Really?

Are the Rays a Moneyball team? Oh, I don't know. They're not not a Moneyball team. I would say without reservation, though, that Kelly Shoppach at one point in his career was the type of player who was glamorized in the book. He was never an on-base freak, but his power and offense for the position supposedly made up for his less-than-stellar defense. After his breakout year in 2008, he had a down year in 2009.

The Rays traded for him when his value was low. That's very Rays. Very Moneyball. And then Shoppach got worse in 2010.

Then he got even worse in 2011, hitting.176/.268/.339. That's like Jeff Mathis chewing a human adrenaline gland.

But for whatever reason, Joe Maddon put Shoppach in the lineup to start Game One of the NLDS. And CJ Wilson threw a pretty good pitch:

 


 ... and Shoppach hit it out to dead center field for a three-run home run. The odds are now up to 2.6% that he's this year's Cody Ross.

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This Matt Moore Kid Might Be A Heckuva Prospect One Day

Matt Moore is a 22-year-old rookie with nine innings of major-league experience before tonight. Has anyone mentioned this? Watching him mow through the Rangers in the first two innings, though, it's worth wondering if there would have been an exciting Game 162 if he were in the rotation earlier for the Rays.

Moore has two strikeouts through two innings, ringing up Elvis Andrus on a grubby slider in the first inning, and then getting Nelson Cruz in the second with a 96-mph fastball up and out of the zone. His fastball has ranged from 93 to 97, but more importantly, he's thrown strikes. If he had a weakness in the minors earlier in his career, it was his control. But he came a long ways this year.

 

Year Lev ERA GS IP H ER HR BB SO
2011 AA-AAA 1.92 27 155.0 101 33 11 46 210
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/30/2011.


So far: not a problem. Also, those stats are completely nonsensical. 

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Rangers vs. Rays: Damon's Homer Paces 3-0 Tampa Bay Lead

Rays 3, Rangers 0

C.J. Wilson gave up only two home runs to left-handed hitters all season.

One of those was hit by Rays right fielder Matt Joyce.

Johnny Damon hit only six home runs against left-handed pitchers all season.

Despite all this, Joe Maddon slotted Damon fifth and Joyce ninth in the Rays' Game 1 lineup, and Damon made Maddon look like a genius in the top of the second inning, when he drove one of Wilson's fastballs just over the fence in right field. With Ben Zobrist having been hit by a Wilson fastball, Damon's blast gave Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.

Damon's homer came on a 3-1 pitch, and Kelly Shoppach got ahead in the count before following with a line-drive single that Craig Gentry, making just his second start all season in left field, couldn't quite snag. After a ground-ball out that pushed Shoppach to second base, Desmond Jennings sent a fly ball to deep left that Gentry did corral.

Then Joyce grounded a single into right field, easily scoring Shoppach.

Wilson finally escaped the inning by retiring Sean Rodriguez. But after throwing only nine pitches in the first inning, he needed 33 in the second.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Scoreless After 1 Inning

Now we’re well underway, as both starting pitchers turned in scoreless first frames.

C.J. Wilson was arguably twice as good as Matt Moore, though, as Wilson needed only nine pitches to dispatch the Rays in order, while Moore needed 18 pitches, in part because of Josh Hamilton’s single to left field.

Still, the pitch count for Moore doesn’t figure to be a large issue, as his lack of action in recent weeks would suggest Joe Maddon will give his rookie starter a short leash, anyway.

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Cooper Stone Throws Ceremonial First Pitch To Josh Hamilton

In a perfectly fitting gesture, young Cooper Stone threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of their Division Series this afternoon.

As you'll recall, Cooper's father, Shannon Stone, died after falling over a guardrail at a Rangers game in July, with Cooper by his side. Josh Hamilton, Cooper's favorite player, was the Ranger who threw the ball into the stands that Shannon Stone was trying to catch, and Hamilton caught Cooper's pitch today.

Here's the video:


Baseball Nation's coverage of Shannon Stone tragedy.

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Is This C.J. Wilson's Last Start For The Rangers?

I mean, it could be. A lot would have to go wrong in this series, so it's not especially likely that it's his last start as a Ranger, but he is a free agent after the season is over. And he'd be the best free-agent starter out there unless CC Sabathia opts out of his contract.

It was hard to imagine the Rangers without Cliff Lee during the playoffs last year, but they certainly made do (all the way to another AL West title). It would be really hard to imagine the Rangers without C.J. Wilson. The reliever-to-starter gag has been tried before, and it will be tried until the end of baseball, but it will rarely work out as well as it has with Wilson. It got the Rangers at least one pennant, and it could get them two.

Of course, they could always re-sign Wilson. If I were a betting man, that's what I'd guess would happen.

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Is Matt Moore the Rays' Best Choice?

Okay, you've seen the lineups and you've read about Matt Moore.

So what do you think?

With Jeff Niemann unavailable because of a back injury, is Moore the Rays' best Game 1 mound option?

With all of one major-league start under Moore's belt, should Joe Maddon instead have chosen Wade Davis or Andy Sonnanstine, both of whom have postseason experience?

Let us know what you think in the comments. First pitch is right around the corner, and we'll be live-blogging both of tonight's games.

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Joe Maddon's Game 1 Lineup

The Tampa Bay Rays have announced manager Joe Maddon's lineup for this afternoon's Division Series opener against the Texas Rangers, with the first pitch scheduled for 4:07 Central Time.

1. Sean Rodriguez, SS
2. B.J. Upton, CF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Ben Zobrist, 2B
5. Johnny Damon*, DH
6. Kelly Shoppach, C
7. Casey Kotchman*, 1B
8. Desmond Jennings, LF
9. Matt Joyce*, RF

First thing that jumps out -- All-Star right fielder Matt Joyce, batting ninth?

But even in this, his breakout season, Joyce has batted just .217/.287/.370 against left-handed pitchers, and Rangers starter C.J. Wilson is one tough left-handed pitcher. You'll also notice that after Maddon's first four hitters, the lineup goes L-R-L-R-L, which should at least moderately complicate Ron Washington's thoughts if he's forced to turn to his bullpen before the ninth inning.

Otherwise, the only moderate surprise is seeing Sean Rodriguez at the top of the order and rookie Desmond Jennings near the bottom, as their regular-season statistics would suggest the opposite.

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Ron Washington's Game 1 Lineup

Via Richard Durrett, we've got Ron Washington's Texas Rangers lineup for Game 1 of their Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, scheduled for a 4:07 Central Time first pitch this afternoon.

1. 2B Ian Kinsler
2. SS Elvis Andrus
3. CF Josh Hamilton*
4. 1B Michael Young
5. 3B Adrian Beltre
6. C Mike Napoli
7. RF Nelson Cruz
8. DH Yorvit Torrealba
9. LF Craig Gentry 

With rookie left-hander Matt Moore starting for the Rays, Washington has loaded his lineup with right-handed hitters, leaving first baseman Mitch Moreland and outfielders David Murphy and Endy Chavez on the bench.

Gentry's almost certainly a better fit in center field than left; he's started just one game in left field all season. But Ron Washington reportedly told Hamilton he'll be in center field throughout the postseason, and doesn't want to mess with Hamilton's head now.

Do you think Mike Scioscia will be watching? You have to wonder what he might say about Yorvit Torrealba DHing so Mike Napoli can don the tools of ignorance ...

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Who Is Matt Moore?

Matt Moore wasn't around in 2011 to push the Rays to the playoffs, but here he is, starting Game 1 for them.

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Rays Vs. Rangers, ALDS Game 1 Preview: Time, TV Schedule, Starting Pitchers And More

The Tampa Bay Rays will start rookie Matt Moore in the Game 1 opener of the ALDS while traveling to face the Texas Rangers. First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 p.m. on TBS.

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Rays Rotation: Matt Moore To Start Game One

Matt Moore has started one game in his major-league career. Matt Moore is starting the first game of the American League Division Series for the Tampa Bay Rays. From the St. Petersburg Times:

Rays name Moore and Shields to start Games 1 and 2

I wonder if the Rays can hire Jason Tyner to push the wheelbarrow that holds Joe Maddon's ... well, you know.

Moore is one of the best prospects in the game, and, according to Kevin Goldstein, has some of the easiest upper-90s velocity in the game. Still, he's only made one start in the majors.

There is a little bit of a precedent, though not quite on this scale. Maddon used David Price in a key relief role in 2008 after just 14 innings in the majors. It's not quite the same as starting a game, but this sort of young trust has worked before

James Shields will start Game Two, which is just swell, but Matt Moore! It's just so crazy, it might work. Or be a total debacle that causes Moore to break down, reemerge as a hitter, and someday post a .300ish OBP for the Royals. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

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