ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Matt Moore returned to the mound for the first time in more than a month, and the Tampa Bay Rays couldn't be happier.
Moore, out since July 28 with a sore elbow, picked up where he left off, pitching the Rays to a 7-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.
Moore (15-3) gave up one unearned run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings to earn the win, his seventh in a row. During Moore's absence, the Rays went 13-18 and fell from being a half-game out of first place in the American League East to 5 1/2 games out.
Because the Boston Red Sox also won, the Rays remained 5 1/2 out, but they ended a five-game losing streak and increased their lead in the race for the second AL wild-card spot to 2 1/2 games.
The Angels saw their five-game winning streak end.
"I'm very happy I was able to get through the fifth and leave the score where it was," Moore said when asked about being rusty. "These guys did a great job of playing defense and hitting the ball tonight. It made my job that much easier."
Moore indeed got plenty of support from the offense, which scored as many runs Tuesday as it did during the entire five-game losing streak. The Rays had 15 hits, including at least one from every player in the starting lineup and two from five of them. Desmond Jennings and Yunel Escobar hit home runs.
The Rays could have scored more, as they left 13 runners on base, but manager Joe Maddon said it was a step forward for what has been a struggling offense.
"In spite of our frustration with runners in scoring position, the at-bats were good and the contact was better, and eventually it's going to shift back to us," Maddon said.
On the receiving end of the Rays' offensive onslaught was Angels starter Jason Vargas (8-6), who gave up five runs and 10 hits in four-plus innings. The defeat came five days after Vargas shut out the Rays on two hits over seven innings in a 2-0 win.
"He wasn't quite as sharp, and sometimes that quick turnaround against the same team, you have to get creative," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think Jason made some good pitches early, then just was in the heart of the plate, his changeup was up a bit and he got behind in some counts. Those guys did a good job against him. He just wasn't able to execute pitches like he did in Tampa last week."
Moore took care of the rest, with help from Roberto Hernandez, who struck out seven of the 11 batters he faced in 3 2/3 perfect innings. Hernandez, an eight-year major league veteran, earned his first career save.
Getting Moore back seemed to come just at right time for the Rays, who had a postgame team party planned by Maddon, win or lose. Or as Maddon put it, "win or weep." Moore's return made it all the more inviting.
"It was frustrating," Moore said of watching from the bench as the club had a losing record in August. "By no means do I feel if I was out there we would have won the games, but just seeing the struggles of the team, we feel for each other. We're all in here with one goal, so if things aren't going our way we all feel the same way regardless if you're on the DL or going great."
NOTES: Angels OF/DH Josh Hamilton was not in the starting lineup because of a sinus infection. He said his sore left shoulder, which has kept him from playing the field since last week, is better now. ... Angels C Chris Iannetta batted in the No. 2 spot for the first time in his career, and he went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk. Although he entered the game hitting just .212, his on-base percentage of .355 was second best on the team to OF Mike Trout's .432. Iannetta has more walks (61) than hits (57). ... Rays OF Sam Fuld retired the only batter he faced in mop-up duty during Monday's 11-2 loss to the Angels, getting J.B. Shuck on a flyout to shallow center. He became the third position player in Rays history to pitch in a game, joining Wade Boggs (1999) and Josh Wilson (2007). ... Rays 3B Evan Longoria went 2-for-4 to snap a slump. He entered the game with only two hits in his previous 30 at-bats, his average dipping to .263. That's the lowest it's been since April 2, when he was hitting .250 after going 1-for-4 in the season opener.