Rays-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

After an up-and-down rookie campaign, Matt Moore is hoping to make significant strides in 2013.

He's headed down the right path if his season debut is any indication.

Moore takes the mound opposite fellow lefty Derek Holland as the visiting Tampa Bay Rays try to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the surging Texas Rangers on Wednesday.

Considered one of the top prospects in baseball in 2011, Moore had an uneven first half of 2012 before going 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA in his first eight starts after the All-Star break. He failed to win any of his next five, posting a 6.14 ERA, before winning his season finale by holding the White Sox to one hit in 5 1-3 scoreless innings.

The 23-year-old Moore had a similarly impressive performance to win Friday, allowing two hits and striking out eight over six innings of a 4-0 victory over Cleveland.

"It was the perfect time to get him out - 100 pitches, six innings," manager Joe Maddon said. "He goes home feeling really good about himself. That's a great game for him to build on."

Moore, whose 4.11 walks per nine innings last year was the seventh-highest mark in baseball, only issued two free passes against the Indians.

"My mindset this entire week while preparing has been to stay with that same tempo from the last start," Moore told MLB's official website. "I just want to stay with the things that were working for me last week."

The Rangers (6-2) know all too well of Moore's ability. The only two times he faced them both came in the 2011 AL division series, going 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA as he allowed three hits in 10 innings.

Moore, though, could have his hands full this time around with the Texas offense on a roll. The Rangers have outscored opponents 36-18 during a 6-1 run and improved to 4-1 at home with Tuesday's 6-1 victory.

Lance Berkman went 3 for 4 with two RBIs, raising his average to .480.

Tampa Bay (3-5), meanwhile, has hit .160 and been outscored 24-5 during a three-game skid. Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria - the team's 2-3-4 hitters Tuesday - went a combined 0 for 10.

The Rays will try to get back on track against Holland (0-0, 2.57), who impressed in his first start as he gave up two runs over seven innings of Friday's 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels.

"I'm very happy," he said. "Overall, the performance was great. I gave us a chance to win, and the guys came through for me. If I keep doing this and giving my team a chance to win, it's going to be a great season."

Including playoffs, Holland is 5-2 over nine starts against the Rays despite a 5.03 ERA. He allowed two hits and struck out a career-high 11 over eight innings of one-run ball in his last outing against them, a 3-1, 11-inning loss Sept. 7.

Holland will need to be cautious with Longoria, who has gone 11 for 26 with four homers and five doubles in their matchups, including playoffs.

"We joke around with each other when I see him. It's like I throw him beach balls," Holland said. "I just have to go out and execute my pitches. Do the same thing I did in my last start and everything will fall into place."

Zobrist has also fared well against Holland, with seven hits - four for extra bases - in his last 21 at-bats against him, including the postseason.

The Rangers haven't swept the Rays since July 3-5, 2009, in Texas.

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