Thursday night’s series finale between the Nationals and Rays featured one of baseball’s fun little idiosyncrasies, as a pair of rookies sharing the same last night faced off against one another. And while Tampa Bay starting pitcher Matt Moore came in with far more hype and national notoriety, it was the work put in by Washington first baseman Tyler Moore at the plate that swung the momentum of the game.
Matt Moore retired the Nationals offense on just eight pitches in the first inning. Meanwhile, his counterpart Gio Gonzalez struggled through his first two frames, totaling 50 pitches. When Moore came back to the mound in the second, he got the first two batters, but the other Moore – Tyler – was patient, took his time, and drew a walk, becoming the Nats first basreunner. Washington would go on to load the bases, and even though they did not score in the inning, the tempo had shifted.
Gonzalez did his part in the third, retiring the side on just five pitches to get Washington quickly back in the dugout, Then, on a hot, muggy night in the District, the Nationals really got after Moore, sending seven men to the plate – including another walk by Tyler Moore – and scoring twice to take the lead. By the time the young lefty was through three innings, his pitch count suddenly stood at 69, and the complexion of the game had shifted.
The Rays had one more chance to steal the game and the series in Washington, tying the contest against Gonzalez with a run in the top of the sixth. With Moore out of the game, thanks to a high pitch count, Joel Peralta was summoned from the ‘pen to face the leadoff man in the sixth – Tyler Moore. And although Moore did not reach base in his final at-bat of the evening, he did grind out an 11-pitch at-bat before finally lining out sharply to right field. His teammates would follow with a two-run rally off Peralta that would prove to be the difference.
While the less-heralded Moore confided after the game that there was nothing specific about his approach – or, for that matter, any notable change in the offense’s approach in general following that lightning-fast first inning – he knew his patience had paid off. In three plate appearances, the rookie had forced Tampa Bay hurlers to throw 22 pitches. Very quietly, as is his style, Moore out-shined his rookie namesake, and the Nationals did what they have done best all season: win another series.
The Nats head to Baltimore Friday night to face the Orioles, one of only five teams to take a series from Washington (15-5-3) in 2012, for the final three games of Interleague Play.