Matt Moore's bid to become the first nine-game winner in the major leagues was supposed to come against the worst hitting team in baseball.
Instead, the Tampa Bay Rays left-hander will face a Cleveland Indians team that's starting to swing the bats well again.
Moore will try to help Tampa Bay match a season high with a sixth consecutive victory Friday night when it takes on Cleveland, which appears to be getting back on track.
The first Rays starter to win his first eight decisions, Moore (8-0, 2.21 ERA) will pitch on an extra day's rest. He was supposed to get the ball Thursday at Miami, but that start went to Alex Colome after the team pushed back Alex Cobb (finger laceration), who had been scheduled for Friday.
Colome, in his first major league start, threw 5 1-3 innings of one-run ball in a 5-2 victory to help Tampa Bay (29-24) move a season-best five games over .500. The Rays have won eight of 11 on the road.
Tampa Bay was 9-0 in Moore's starts before Fernando Rodney blew the save and Josh Lueke surrendered the winning run in a 4-3, 11-inning loss to the New York Yankees on Saturday.
Moore gave up one run in six innings.
"(Bullpen struggles are) something that every pitcher (has gone) through," Moore told the Rays' official website. "... It's one of those things where we're going to find adjustments to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Moore can become the first pitcher since Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010 with Colorado to win nine games before June 1. He'll make his second start against the Indians (29-24) this season after striking out eight in a 4-0 home win April 5, when he yielded two hits - both to Michael Bourn - in six innings.
Cleveland lost 6-0 the following night before pounding out 17 hits in the series finale, a 13-0 victory April 7.
The Indians have again rebounded from a rough stretch at the plate, totaling 12 runs and 20 hits in back-to-back victories after scoring 14 runs during a season-high five-game skid. In a 7-1 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday, Cleveland plated all of its runs with two outs in the fourth inning.
"That was impressive," manager Terry Francona said.
Winner of 15 of 19 at home, Cleveland opens this three-game series with Corey Kluber (3-3, 4.57) getting his first look at the Rays. The right-hander, 2-3 with a 4.95 ERA in six starts since joining the rotation April 20, turned in his best outing of the year Sunday.
Kluber went 6 2-3 innings and allowed one run and three hits while striking out a career-high 10 in a 6-5 loss at Boston on Sunday. Like Moore's last start, Kluber was in line for the win before the Red Sox scored four times in the ninth.
"He's gaining confidence," Francona told the Indians' official website. "You can see it in the way he attacks pitches, the way he attacks hitters, and the results of this game weren't what we wanted at the end, but his start was fantastic."
Rays right fielder Matt Joyce had one hit in 10 at_bats last month against Cleveland, but he's batting .375 during a seven-game hitting streak after delivering a two-run homer Thursday.
Cleveland's Michael Brantley came into the game on a 1-for-15 skid and had an RBI single while going 1 for 3. Jason Kipnis added a run-scoring single, but he's in a 5-for-37 slump.
The two players were a combined 1 for 14 versus Tampa Bay last month, going hitless in four at_bats off Moore.
Moore allowed five runs and walked five in 4 2-3 innings in his only start in Cleveland, a 7-3 loss June 7.
The Associated Press News Service
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