BOSTON - Matt Moore gave the Rays nearly everything they needed Sunday against the Boston Red Sox. He was aggressive, threw strikes and took some pressure off a nearly depleted bullpen by pitching into the seventh inning.
And he lost.
The Red Sox extended the Rays' losing streak to four games with a 6-4 victory that didn't quite have the fireworks of the first two games of this series but still included some big hits.
"They're just really hot right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's like they knew what's coming almost. They're on every pitch. They're on the fastball. They're on the breaking ball. They're on the change-up. They're on everything right now."
The Red Sox have scored 31 runs during the first three games of this four-game series. They've hit seven home runs, smacked 13 doubles and, wait, did Maddon just say, "like they knew what was coming?"
"They're really locked," Maddon said and left it at that, though he mentioned several times in his seven-minute postgame interview session that Red Sox hitters swung like they knew what pitch to expect.
Catcher Chris Gimenez said he, Moore and pitching coach Jim Hickey discussed that very subject during the fifth inning. Gimenez said he found himself watching Moore for signs the rookie was tipping his pitches and even set up behind the plate later in case the Red Sox hitters were peaking to see the pitch location.
"We really have no idea," Gimenez said, "but it did look like they were taking some pretty comfortable passes on balls like they knew what was coming."
Hickey said Moore wasn't tipping his pitches and downplayed the subject. Other than Kevin Youkilis chasing a change-up out of the zone for a second-inning single that started a three-run inning, Hickey said the Red Sox hits came off pitches that were in the middle of the plate, like the fastball Cody Ross launched onto Lansdowne Street that same inning for a three-run homer.
Moore didn't believe he was tipping his pitches, either.
"It would be another thing if I didn't get out of the third or fourth inning," he said. "It was one of those things where Youkilis had a great at-bat and he hit a change-up that wasn't in the zone. They did a good job of whatever hitters do to stay on those pitches, and they also took care of the mistakes I made."
Moore allowed eight hits, including three doubles and two home runs, in 61/3 innings. He took the first loss of his major-league career.
The biggest hit was an RBI double to left-center field by David Ortiz in the sixth inning that snapped a 4-4 tie.
The Rays trailed 4-0 after the fourth inning but scored three times in the fifth on a two-run double by Carlos Peña, who missed a three-run homer earlier in the at-bat when the ball hooked foul, and an RBI double by Evan Longoria. Luke Scott tied the score in the top of the sixth with his second home run in as many games.
But Ortiz shifted the momentum back to Boston in the bottom of the inning with his seventh hit in seven at-bats.
"That's pretty impressive," Peña said. "He's been swinging the bat very well. It seems every time he swings he's squaring the ball up well and hitting the ball hard and to the deep parts of the ball park, too."
Ortiz drove in six runs over that stretch that included three doubles and a home run.
"Big Papi's locked in," Gimenez said. "I can't even begin to describe it. We just might as well walk him next time."
Said Maddon, "It's almost like he knows what's coming and where it's supposed to be."
So did Moore tip his pitches and no one on the team will admit it? Are the Red Sox stealing signs? Or has a powerful lineup come to life during this series, especially Sunday against a rookie making only his third big-league start?
"I think this whole series they've been really locked in," Maddon said. "Kudos to them."
Tampa Bay Rays