While Matt Moore turned in superb outing after superb outing last month, cruising through his first start in May might not be as easy.
Looking to remain unbeaten, Moore takes on one of the best hitting teams in baseball as the Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies open a three-game set Friday night at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Moore (5-0, 1.13 ERA) has won all of his starts while posting a major league-leading .121 opponents' batting average against and the second-lowest ERA in the AL.
Moore scattered three hits and struck out nine over six innings of one-run ball in a 10-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. That followed an eight-inning, one-run, nine-strikeout performance in a 5-1 win over the New York Yankees on April 22.
"He's built on each outing," manager Joe Maddon said. "I know the last game he pitched eight (innings), but he has been just as good and maybe a little bit better."
The left-hander became the sixth pitcher under the age of 24 to go 5-0 in April, joining Fernando Valenzuela, Babe Ruth, Greg Swindell, Dwight Gooden and Dontrelle Willis. Only Valenzuela posted a lower ERA in the month.
"When he gets a feel for his fastball and knows where it's going, heads up, because he really feels good about the other stuff," Maddon told MLB's official website. "Fastball command makes the world go round for a pitcher. It's getting better, and as it gets better, he's going to get even better beyond the numbers you're seeing right now."
Moore could be in for his stiffest test to date against the NL West-leading Rockies (17-11). Besides hitting a league-best .283, Colorado ranks first with 148 runs and is near the top with 36 homers.
The Rockies have been especially tough in Denver, winning nine of 12 while batting .311 with runners in scoring position.
Colorado returns home after dropping three of four to Arizona and taking two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers, including a 7-3 win Wednesday. Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer each had two hits and two RBIs as Colorado overcame a shaky effort from starter Juan Nicasio.
"That's the beauty of having an offense like we have," manager Walt Weiss said. "We can outslug some things. You can't do that all the time, but we have the capability. ... We can hit with anybody."
The Rockies' bullpen has also come up big, allowing three unearned runs and striking out 33 over 30 2-3 innings in the last eight games.
"Our bullpen is throwing the ball really well," Weiss said. "If our starting pitching can give us a chance, with the way our bullpen is throwing and the way our offense can score runs, we're going to win some games."
The Rockies may need another big performance from both with Jeff Francis (1-2, 7.29) set to take the mound. The left-hander had gone 0-2 with a 12.60 ERA over his previous three starts before allowing two runs and four hits in five innings of a 3-2, 10-inning loss at Arizona on Saturday.
Francis has gone 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA in two starts versus Tampa Bay (12-15). While James Loney is 1 for 17 against Francis, he's 22 for 42 with a homer and nine RBIs in his last 14 games.
The Rays dropped back-to-back games at Kansas City before Thursday's series finale was postponed due to weather. They are 4-11 on the road, their poorest such start since opening a franchise-worst 4-28 in 2005.
Tampa Bay is 2-7 at Colorado, last visiting in 2009.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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