Baseball hasn't seen a left-hander as young as 23-year-old Matt Moore start a season this well since one of the greatest New York Yankees sluggers of all-time was still putting fear into the opposition from the pitcher's mound 96 years ago.
The current Yankees are privy to just how good Moore has been, and they won't have Curtis Granderson to try and help slow him down.
Moore takes the mound as the host Tampa Bay Rays look to avoid a fourth loss in five games Saturday against first-place New York.
Though he would later be known for his 714 career home runs, a 22-year-old Boston hurler named Babe Ruth began the 1917 season winning his first nine decisions.
No other lefty would win his first eight at such a young age until Moore (8-0, 2.29 ERA), who has dazzled at times in his second season as a full-time starter for the Rays (24-23).
Moore's ERA rose more than a point while posting a 5.06 mark over his previous three starts, but he allowed just one run in seven innings of a 3-1 win at Baltimore on Sunday.
He has won nine straight decisions dating back to last season to break the franchise record set in 2012 by Cy Young Award winner David Price ."Historically speaking, it's been wonderful," manager Joe Maddon said.
Opponents are hitting just .175 off Moore, the third-best mark in the majors."It's good for our team. That's the biggest thing we can take away from my record," Moore said. "On my days to pitch, we're winning all the games. That's the most important part."
Moore gave up one run and two hits - including a solo homer to Robinson Cano - in a season-high eight innings of a 5-1 win over the Yankees on April 22, striking out nine.
New York (29-18) hopes to have a better performance this time after ending a two-game slide with a 9-4 victory in Friday's series opener. They lost Granderson, though, to a broken knuckle on his left pinkie after he was hit by a pitch in the fifth, and manager Joe Girardi indicated the outfielder could miss a minimum of four weeks.
Granderson also missed the first 38 games with a broken right forearm suffered when he was hit with a pitch in his first spring training at-bat."It's sad," Cano said. "He's one of those guys you're going to miss. Hopefully he gets back soon."
Nuno (1-1, 1.13) will be making his fourth career appearance and second start after allowing a leadoff home run in the bottom of the 10th in a 3-2 loss to Baltimore on Tuesday.
His only start came May 13, when he gave up three hits and three walks in five innings of a 7-0 win over Cleveland.
It's unclear how many more starts the left-hander will receive with Nova back. Nova, who had an inflamed right triceps, has been put into a long-reliever role to get back on track before he returns to the rotation.
The Yankees had lost 13 of the previous 16 meetings in St. Petersburg prior to Friday, when the Rays' Evan Longoria went 0 for 4 to end his career-best 16-game hitting streak.
|New York Yankees|
|May 24, 2013||Curtis Granderson||Day-to-Day||Left game - Broken left pinkie finger|
|May 24, 2013||David Phelps||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right arm injury|
|May 17, 2013||Andy Pettitte||15-Day DL||Strained left trapezius muscle|
|May 16, 2013||Andy Pettitte||Day-to-Day||Left game - tight left trapezius|
|May 16, 2013||Chris Stewart||Day-to-Day||Left groin injury|
|May 06, 2013||Eduardo Nunez||15-Day DL||Left ribcage strain|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|May 16, 2013||David Price||15-Day DL||Left triceps strain|
|May 15, 2013||David Price||Day-to-Day||Left tricep tightness|
|May 08, 2013||Brandon Gomes||15-Day DL||Strained right lat|
|May 04, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Left hand contusion|
|April 27, 2013||Jose Molina||Day-to-Day||Knee|
|April 25, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Lyle Overbay made the biggest in a series of big plays Saturday that showed why the New York Yankees are on top in the AL East.
Overbay homered with two outs in the 11th inning, and the Yankees rallied late to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 on Saturday.
"He's a big reason why we are where we're at," said New York manager Joe Girardi of Overbay, who is filling in for the injured Mark Teixeira . "It's a big home run. It's a big win."
Overbay drilled a 1-0 pitch from Josh Lueke (0-2) into the right field seats to give New York the lead.
"I'd been missing fastballs all day, and it was good just to get on top of one," Overbay said. "Exciting to do that."
Ivan Nova (2-1), who made his first relief appearance after returning from a right triceps injury and being moved from the Yankees' rotation to the bullpen, struck out James Loney and got an inning-ending grounder from Matt Joyce with the bases loaded in the 10th.
"I've got to take advantage of every opportunity," Nova said.
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect 11th inning for his 18th straight save to start the season. The right-hander tied Dennis Eckersley for fourth place for games pitched with 1,071. He had been tied with Hoyt Wilhelm , who coached Rivera in the minors.
"I think that's why we appreciate him so much because of his consistency year in and year out," Girardi said.
The Yankees scored twice in the ninth against struggling Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney to pull even at 3.
With two outs, Overbay walked, went to second on a balk, and scored on Brennan Boesch 's pinch-hit RBI double. Brett Gardner then added a run-scoring single.
Gardner was caught attempting to steal second with Robinson Cano batting.
"When we tied it, you've got to feel good about your chances," Gardner said. "The momentum is on our side, but we're still playing on the road and they've got the last shot at it. Another outstanding pitching performance today, and we were able to steal one."
Rodney is just 9 for 14 in save chances this year after converting 48 of 50 opportunities last season.
"This has been really awkward to watch," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's been within one pitch of almost being perfect this season. Three of the blown saves have come down to the last pitch. I've not lost any patience with it. As long as he doesn't lose confidence in himself, I will not lose confidence in him."
Tampa Bay appeared poised to win it in the bottom of the ninth, but Ichiro Suzuki made a sliding catch in right field on Yunel Escobar 's liner with a runner on second.
"Amazing," Girardi said. "I heard some people in the stands, say `There it is.' They thought the game was over. There's so many big things that happened in this game to give us an opportunity to win that game."
Rays starter Matt Moore , looking to start the season 9-0, got a no-decision despite allowing one run and five hits in six innings. In his other start against New York this season, the left-hander gave up one run and two hits over eight innings on April 22 in a 5-1 victory.
Yankees rookie Vidal Nuno allowed two runs and five hits over six-plus innings. The left-hander, making his second start and fourth appearance, has given up three runs in 14 innings overall.
Loney singled off Nuno to start the seventh and went to third when Joyce had a pinch-hit double against Shawn Kelley . Kelly Johnson then put Tampa Bay up 2-1 on a single off Boone Logan .
The Rays' advantage grew to 3-1 when Joyce slid home safely under catcher Austin Romine 's tag attempt after Escobar hit a grounder to shortstop Jayson Nix .
Johnson has driven in 18 runs over his 20 games this month.
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the first when Gardner had a leadoff double and scored on a two-out single by Travis Hafner .
Tampa Bay tied it at 1 on Desmond Jennings ' two-out RBI double during the fifth.
NOTES: The Yankees are 2-17 when trailing after eight innings. ... Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was scheduled to throw the ceremonial first pitch, but was delayed getting to the ballpark due to a minor vehicle accident in which no one was injured. ... Nix was spiked and cut near the right wrist on a seventh-inning pickoff play. He remained in the game and stole second on the next pitch. ... The Yankees put OF Curtis Granderson on the 15-day disabled list with a broken knuckle on his left pinkie and recalled Boesch from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.