Tampa Bay, who seized a Major League playoff berth in the most unlikely fashion, kept the momentum going on Friday with a 9-0 victory over the Texas Rangers in their post-season opener.
Matt Moore, making just his second major league start, pitched seven innings of two-hit ball for Tampa Bay, dominating the defending American League champion Rangers.
“I may have looked a little more calm than I was, especially early,” the 22-year-old Moore said. “The first inning, I had a little bit of nerves and adrenaline going.
“But these guys made it really easy for me, putting up those numbers. Looking up there after the fourth, I think it was 8-0, it was just a matter of throwing strikes and getting out of the innings as fast as possible.”
Kelly Shoppach hit two home runs and drove in five runs as the Rays gained a valuable 1-0 lead in the best-of-five first-round series.
Tampa Bay only secured their playoff spot in the final game of the regular season Wednesday — when they rallied from a seven-run deficit to beat the New York Yankees, and also benefitted from Boston’s final-game defeat at Baltimore.
The American League East division champion Yankees were also in action Friday, hosting Detroit in game one of their first-round series.
That game was tied at 1-1 in the middle of the second inning when rain swept into New York, forcing a delay. Officials hoped play would resume later Friday.
Tampa Bay had to overcome Boston’s nine-game lead in the last 3 1/2 weeks of the regular season to seize the wild card berth.
That meant manager Joe Maddon didn’t have the luxury of planning a post-season pitching rotation. His decision to go with the left-hander Moore, who struck out 11 in his first major league start at Yankee Stadium this month, certainly paid off.
Moore struck out six and walked two against a Rangers lineup that was the American League’s top-hitting team.
“He was outstanding,” Maddon said. “Pounding the strike zone right there with all of his pitches gave him and me and us a lot more confidence in the moment. He’s got that kind of composure.
“You can’t be more impressed,” Maddon added. “What he did tonight was spectacular.”
The Rangers will try to bounce back on Saturday in game two. They’ll send Derek Holland to the mound while James Shields will start for the Rays.