Rays-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

While Matt Moore has had a rough season thus far, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon doesn't seem too concerned.

Moore takes the mound Saturday night looking to put a disastrous outing behind him as the Rays continue a three-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

Considered among the top pitching prospects in baseball, Moore (1-2, 5.71 ERA) hasn't lived up to expectations so far in his first full season in the majors. The hard-throwing 22-year-old left-hander has been plagued by a lack of command (18 walks in 34 2-3 innings) as well as an inability to keep the ball in the park.

Moore was hit especially hard during Sunday's 9-5 loss to Oakland, yielding a career-worst eight runs - including his sixth homer in as many starts - seven hits and three walks over 4 2-3 innings.

"He just got out of whack," Maddon said. "He couldn't throw a strike where he wanted to with the fastball. He has a great fastball, he just doesn't know where it's going all the time quite yet. I've seen that before with our other young pitchers, so he's going to be fine."

Moore now must attempt to contain an Orioles offense that leads the majors with 53 homers. Adam Jones hit his 10th and Nick Markakis went deep for the third time in four games before Nick Johnson belted a go-ahead, two-run shot - his first long ball in more than two years - in the seventh inning of Friday's 4-3 win.

It was the fifth loss in six games for Tampa Bay (20-13), which fell one game behind the Orioles (21-12) for the AL East lead. The Rays are batting .226 during their slump, including a .157 (8 for 51) mark with runners in scoring position.

Tampa Bay may have a more favorable matchup Saturday against Baltimore starter Brian Matusz (1-4, 5.91).

Six days after earning his first win since last June, Matusz saw his struggles resume Monday, giving up season highs of seven runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 14-3 loss to Texas.

"I just never got in a good rhythm," Matusz, who dropped to 1-13 with a 9.81 ERA over his last 16 starts, told the Orioles' official website. "(I was) getting behind guys all game, flying open on pitches and leaving some breaking balls out over the plate."

The left-hander is 3-2 with a 5.70 ERA in six career starts against the Rays. He lasted just 1 1-3 innings in a 9-6 loss to Tampa Bay last June 12, when he gave up four runs, five hits and four walks.

Ben Zobrist is 4 for 12 with a homer off Matusz, while B.J. Upton is 4 for 11 with three walks and a .500 on-base percentage.

Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings (sprained left knee) missed his fourth straight start Friday, grounding out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.

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