Twins-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

After a modest rough stretch, Matt Moore has again been dominant for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Riding a 17 1-3-inning scoreless streak, the left-hander tries to win five straight starts for the second time this season when the host Rays look for an eighth consecutive victory and four-game sweep of the reeling Minnesota Twins on Thursday.

From June 4-14, Moore (12-3, 3.42 ERA) allowed 20 runs, 26 hits and walked 11 over 12 1-3 during a three-game losing streak. Since then, he's given up four runs while striking out 30 and overcoming 14 walks in 25 2-3 innings to go 4-0.

The same day he was passed over for a spot on the AL All-Star roster, Moore allowed five hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

"He certainly pitched like an All-Star,'' manager Joe Maddon said.

Moore, who posted a 1.13 ERA while winning his first five starts, could still wind up in the Midsummer Classic with All-Stars Hisashi Iwakuma of Seattle, Detroit's Justin Verlander and Oakland's Bartolo Colon all scheduled to pitch Sunday. Texas' Yu Darvish was also placed on the disabled list and will miss Tuesday's contest.

"There's still an opportunity, possibly," Maddon said. "We'll see how it all shakes out."

While Moore would certainly welcome that first All-Star selection, his focus remains on helping the Rays (52-40) win eight in a row for the second straight season.

"We're playing great right now,'' he said. "On my night, it's just keep the ball rolling.''

In his only start versus Minnesota last season, Moore allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-4 defeat at Tropicana Field.

Tampa Bay ran its winning streak over the Twins (37-51) to eight games Wednesday when it overcame an early two-run deficit to win 4-3 in 13 innings. Kelly Johnson hit a tying two-run homer in the sixth and Ben Zobrist had the winning RBI single to send the Rays to their 11th victory in 12 games.

"When you win a game like that, there's a residual energy," Maddon said.

Minnesota, meanwhile, has lost four in a row and 10 of 11.

The All-Star Zobrist is 6 for 40 in his last 10 games, and 3 for 12 in the series but with three RBIs.

Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit each had three hits for the Twins, who have dropped four straight and 13 of 16 on the road.

Mauer is 5 for 9 the last two games and 2 for 2 versus Moore.

Teammate Justin Morneau, however, is 4 for 36 with three homers in July.

Scheduled Twins starter Mike Pelfrey (4-6, 5.63) was 0-3 with a 5.95 ERA during an eight-start span prior to landing on the DL with a back strain June 23. When he returned Saturday, the right-hander overcame a groin problem to allow three hits in six innings of a 6-0 victory at Toronto.

"He said he just made an adjustment in his windup and everything went good from there,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said. "(The groin is) fine, he pitched through it with no problems and he'll be fine.''

Pelfrey last faced the Rays in 2009, when he gave up four runs in five innings for the New York Mets.