Blog Entry

Gutsy Maddon trusts a gutsy kid, and Rays win

Posted on: September 17, 2011 8:58 pm
 
BOSTON -- Season on the line, and Joe Maddon trusted a kid he'd never seen pitch before Wednesday.

Season on the line, and Joe Maddon trusted 22-year-old Matt Moore so much that he handed him a two-run lead at Fenway Park, and didn't even bother warming anyone up behind him. He trusted him so much that he had Moore pitch the sixth inning, and the seventh, and then sent him out there again for the eighth, with a one-run lead.

You've got to love Joe Maddon, don't you?

The Rays manager isn't scared, and that's exactly why he's perfect for this team. The low-budget Rays have no choice but to take chances, and what manager in baseball is more willing to take chances?

He turned Saturday's 4-3 Rays win over the Red Sox into fascinating theater, and at the same time ensured that this long-shot American League wild-card race will go on for at least another day. The Rays now trail the Red Sox by three games with 11 games to play.

Moore, in his second big-league appearance, pitched maybe the three most important innings of the Rays season so far. He allowed one run, but he held onto the lead. He lived up to his advance billing, and also to his manager's amazing trust.

"That's hands-down the biggest game he's ever pitched," said an admiring David Price, who should know. "It's not easy to pitch in this park. This is an environment he's never felt before."

The Rays called Moore up from the minor leagues this week, openly hoping he could do for them what Price did in September and October 2008. They knew he had a 98 mph fastball, they believed he has the poise and makeup to handle it, and besides, they needed some help.

"He's the joker," Maddon said. "He's the wild card. Hopefully, he is the wild card."

Maddon is a little bit like Tiger manager Jim Leyland, in that he has no problem throwing a kid into a big situation right away. But Maddon might be even bolder.

He fully believed that Moore was his best option Saturday, because he thought Moore's stuff would allow him to make it through the Red Sox lineup. The only alternative, Maddon figured, was to "guess" on matchups, batter by batter.

"The plan is to win the game," Maddon said. "I thought he was going to be able to carry us for 2-3 innings. . . . I'm thinking he's got the best stuff, and I needed the best stuff to get through that."

This all says plenty about Moore, who spent much of this season in Double-A (where he struck out 131 batters in 102 1/3 innings).

"I think it was actually an easy decision," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "Had we sent him out there for the ninth, I'd have had confidence in him."

Easy decision or not, it was a gutsy decision. It was a Maddon-type decision, a Rays-type decision.

As it turned out, it was the right decision.
And now the Rays have a chance.

"A sweep [of this weekend's four-game series] was a great thought," Maddon said. "But three out of four ain't bad. I think Meat Loaf intended the song to say that."

Category: MLB
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