The Tampa Bay Rays' top rookie pitcher Matt Moore made his major league debut just over two weeks ago on September 14th against the Baltimore Orioles. Eight days later, Moore would make his first major league start against the New York Yankees in the always pitcher friendly confines of replica Yankee Stadium. In his three September appearances, Moore showed exactly why he was considered the top pitching prospect in baseball and that he would have a bright future in an already deep Rays bullpen....
What no one expected on that September evening in Camden Yards was that the Rays would complete the biggest come back in baseball history and find themselves in the postseason facing the Texas Rangers for the second straight year.
Come Friday night, rookie Matt Moore will have made as many postseason starts as he has regular season starts, as Joe Maddon announced Thursday that he would be handing the ball to his top prospect for Friday's ALDS game 1 in Arlington, Texas.
Moore dazzled in his first big league start, striking out a record 11 Yankees, allowing 4 hits and 0 runs to a powerful AL East rival lineup in their offense-enhancing ballpark. The 2011 minor league pitcher of the year raked up 200 strikeouts between AA and AAA this year and issued just 46 walks, while pitching to the tune of a 1.37 ERA.
Jeff Niemann was the most likely choice to go in game 1 but Joe Maddon electing to go with his young lefty signals that perhaps the Rays were not confident in Neimanns health. Niemann has been dealing with a stiff back for about two weeks now: his start was moved back during the seasons final homestand and then Niemann was pulled after just one ineffective inning against Toronto last Saturday.
C.J. Wilson will oppose Moore for the Rangers. Game 1 is at 5:05 pm EST on TBS.