Getty Images: Matt Sullivan
Tampa Bay's Matt Moore is putting together an amazing sophomore season and tries to add to his accolades on Friday night when the Rays begin a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians.
Moore is tied for the major league lead in victories, bringing a perfect 8-0 record into this outing. His 2.21 earned run average is also the second-best in the American League and the 23-year-old has won a club-record nine straight dating back to last season.
Moore is looking to become the fifth-youngest pitcher since 1916 to begin a season 9-0 and he is the youngest starter to win his first eight decisions since Jered Weaver went 9-0 in 2006. Moore is also the first left-handed starter to start 8-0 since Baltimore's Jimmy Key in 1997.
Moore, though, did not get a decision last time out versus the New York Yankees despite allowing just one run on five hits and two walks over six innings. He was in line for the victory, but the bullpen failed to hold a lead in the 4-3 loss, which snapped Tampa Bay's club-record string of 11 straight victories in games started by Moore.
The 6-foot-2 hurler is 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in five road starts and began his season with a 4-0 win over visiting Cleveland on April 5. Moore hurled six scoreless frames of two-hit ball with eight strikeouts, moving to 2-1 in his career versus the Indians with a 4.02 ERA in three starts.
The Rays are currently riding a five-game winning streak, having taken all four games of their series with the Miami Marlins to complete a sweep of the Citrus Series for the first time in club history.
Backed by home runs from Matt Joyce and James Loney, Alex Colome won his major league debut. He scattered five hits while allowing just one unearned run over 5 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and two walks.
"Expectations were probably exceeded a little bit," Rays manager Joe Maddon said on his team's website. "We knew he was good. We knew about the fastball, the cutter/slider kind of new. ... It looked really sharp. And the change-up is outstanding also. So he has definite swing-and-miss stuff."
The Indians are looking to put together a winning streak of their own and have followed a five-game slide with back-to-back home wins over the Cincinnati Reds.
Cleveland took Thursday's meeting 7-1, scoring all seven of its runs in the fourth inning. Six different players had run-scoring hits with two outs in the frame, with Michael Bourn leading the way with a pair of RBI.
That was more than enough support for Scott Kazmir, who yielded a run and eight hits over a season-high seven innings.
"Really, really impressed," said Indians manager Terry Francona. "It seemed like from the first pitch of the game, he stuck his fastball so many times tonight, whether it was in or out, but he just kept sticking it and locating it and pitching downhill and was so aggressive with it that it set everything else up."
Taking the hill for the Indians in this opener will be Corey Kluber, who is 3-3 with a 4.57 ERA in eight appearances this season, including six starts.
He has allowed more than three runs in just one of his outings this season and did not get a decision on Sunday at Boston even though he held the Red Sox to only a run on three hits and one walk. Kluber also struck out a career-high 10 over 6 2/3 innings in a game the Indians lost late 6-5.
"He's gaining confidence," Francona said on his team's 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."
The 27-year-old righty takes on Tampa Bay for the first time.
After splitting eight meetings with the Indians a season ago, the Rays opened the 2013 series by taking two of three at home from April 5-7.
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