Andrew Moore made his AAA debut tonight and while his final line of 5.2 innings/3 ER might not look sparkling from an outside perspective, it was a strong first outing from the 22-year-old just called up from AA. He threw 93 pitches, 60 of them for strikes, and struck out five while walking just one, showing his renowned command of the strike zone and how good he can be even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.
Moore came in firing in his first inning as a Rainier, needing just twelve pitches, seven of which he threw for strikes, to retire the side. He hit 95 on the gun at one point, but don’t get too excited—he settled back down into his typical 89-92 with the fastball after that. Moore struggled a little to control his slider tonight, but was able to lean on his other secondary offerings to limit damage and keep hitters off-balance. Aside from the slider, he also showed a cutter and a curve and mixed the pitches well, varying speeds from the low 80s to the low 90s. He was efficient with his pitches: he only needed 12 to get through the first inning, throwing 7 of them for strikes.
Moore had a few innings where he had to work around trouble, maybe none more so than the second inning. A sharply hit comebacker by Destin Hood struck Moore in the foot, and while he did hustle to track it down, Hood reached safely. Despite Moore trying to shoo them back to the dugout, the training staff came on and insisted on examining him (TRAINER SHOW), which seemed to mess with Moore’s rhythm some, as he gave up a first pitch home run in the next at-bat to Moises Sierra. The homer wasn’t yanked, exactly, as it just stayed fair down the left-field line, which is encouraging: Moore gave up almost no hard contact. Of his five hits, one was the comebacker, one was the homer, and the other three were all seeing-eye singles. Every time Moore would struggle, he would rebound with a vengeance. After his second-inning struggles, he came back to throw an eight-pitch, one-two-three third. In the fourth, Ramon Cabrera would get the only other hard contact of the day off Moore, a deep flyout that Leonys Martin made a fine running catch on. Moore responded by striking out the next batter, Matt Juengel, with a nasty slider for a swinging K. He would give up one more run in the fifth before being lifted, ending his night on another strikeout, this time a called strike three on a curveball.
The Rainiers welcomed their new teammate by erupting for eleven runs on fourteen hits. Most of the damage was done in the third inning, when the Rainiers truly batted around (Tyler Smith appeared twice in the inning). After Smith flew out to lead off the inning, the Rainiers reached base six consecutive times, with Zach Shank, Leonys Martin, and Tyler O’Neill all doubling. Only Zunino didn’t check in that inning with a hit, smoking a deep flyout—he’d make up for that in the fifth, crushing a solo shot over the centerfield fence. The Rainiers would add another run in the sixth, and two more in the seventh to secure a victory. On a night where every Rainier recorded at least one hit, and half of them had multi-hit games, Boog Powell’s performance stands out with a team-high 3 RBI, two hits, a walk, and a run scored. He really broke the scoring run in the third open by working a full count after falling behind early against New Orleans starter Vance Worley before smoking a single up the middle to score two. Tyler O’Neill also continued to look more comfortable in AAA; he had two hits, one on a breaking ball—something he’s struggled with at this level—and made an excellent diving catch to end the top of the eighth inning.
The Baby Cakes rallied in the seventh for a run off reliever Nick Hagadone and then another four off Michael Rivera, up with the team temporarily from extended spring training. Rivera struggled, giving up a lot of hard contact, which is to be expected for a kid who hasn’t ever pitched above short-season Everett. With the win, Tacoma goes to 20-11 on the season and it cannot be expressed enough how much fun they are to watch, especially with the quick-working Moore on the hill. If he makes another start for Tacoma, you should definitely make it a priority to see one of the M’s top prospects in action.