Yesterday was a good day in Mariners-land. The Mariners won, the baby Mariners (DSL) won, the LumberKings won, the Travelers won, Gianfranco Wawoe walked off the Nuts, and the Rainiers crushed the Las Vegas 51s. It was the game that almost wasn’t, after an hour-and-a-half rain delay, but when Andrew Moore finally took the mound, he turned in a gem over five and a third innings, allowing five hits and no runs while striking out eight and issuing no walks. The Rainiers, meanwhile, jumped all over the 51s, touching up starter Ricky Knapp for 7 ER over 2.2 innings. It started with a D.J. Peterson home run that was smacked with authority over the left field fence because D.J. also wants to congratulate Ethan on getting into grad school. D.J. is on a tear lately, slashing .317/.378/.415 over his last ten games. Ryan Jackson would then double to score Tyler O’Neill, giving the Rainiers a 2-0 lead. They broke the game open in the third, with an Andrew Aplin bases-clearing triple, and then a Tuffy Gosewisch two-RBI single (!). Mitch Haniger would add another run in the fourth on a solo home run that is nestled somewhere in the snowy tops of the Cascades to make it 8-0. They would add another run later, and had chances for more, but it was already a pretty late night and there were fireworks scheduled so the Rainiers politely refrained from going into the double digits.
Not that Andrew Moore needed that much run support. He had supreme command of his fastball, a good feel for his changeup, and he also mixed in a high-70s curveball I hadn’t seen him use as much before—maybe feeling more free to experiment thanks to being staked to such a big lead. The 51s don’t have quite the lefty-heavy lineup to run out against Moore, but they batted a lefty, Brandon Nimmo, in the leadoff spot. Moore responded by striking him out to start the game, but wasn’t able to sneak past lefty Dominic Smith two batters later, giving up a single up the middle on a 92 mph fastball. He rebounded to strike out Kevin Plawecki to end the inning, nailing him with a succession of perfectly placed fastballs. Moore would only need 10 pitches to get through the second inning, getting three softly hit air outs as he started to mix in his offspeed stuff more. Working with a 1-0 lead in the third, Moore started off by striking out switch-hitter Victor Cruzado and getting Phillip Evans to ground out. In a 1-1 count to the lefty Nimmo, Moore tried to retire him on a 77 mph curve, the same pitch Nimmo had swung over in the first. Instead, Nimmo smacked it over the head of Andrew Aplin for a double against the left field wall. He bounced back, however, to put away top prospect Amed Rosario on a pop-up. This would become a theme for Moore throughout the night: every time he got into trouble, he found a way to pitch his way through it.
The downside of the Rainiers scoring a sestet of runs in the third meant that Moore was on the shelf for quite a while, and when he came out in the 4th the first batter he had to face was Smith, who already had a hit off of him. This time, Moore stayed away from the fastball with Smith, instead throwing him two off-speed pitches (not sure whether it was the changeup or slider on those) for called strikes before switching over to his curve for an easy 4-3 groundout. It was setting up to be an easy inning but then Kevin Plawecki put up perhaps the most annoying at-bat of the night. First, he pulled a full Robinson Canó with his shin guard, as Moore stood on the mound tapping his toe in impatience. Then he proceeded to eat into Moore’s pitch count with a ten-pitch at-bat—the same number of pitches Moore threw in the entire second inning. The count didn’t run full until the ninth pitch of the at-bat as Moore tried pitch after pitch to get Plawecki, elevating fastballs, trying to sneak sliders past him, pounding all corners of the zone. The at-bat finally ended in Moore’s favor, with Plawecki flying out to shallow center field, but the damage was done to Moore’s pitch count. He then gave up a double to Travis Taijeron off an 84 mph slider, but was able to come back and strike out the next batter on four pitches, ending with a 90 mph swinging strike. It was a 21-pitch inning, with ten of those pitches to Plawecki.
Moore would run into trouble once more in the fifth, when Gavin Cecchini, one of MiLB’s flying Cecchini Brothers, rocketed an 83 mph slider to the deepest part of center field, sending Leonys scrambling over the sodden grass, while The Great Cecchini zoomed into third. 83% of the time, a leadoff triple scores a run. It looked like the shutout was over. But Moore rallied to strike out the lefty Cruzado, nailing him for a swinging strike on a well-spotted curve, and showing him something completely different than the elevated fastballs he’d struck him out on previously. The thing about Moore is he actually often gets better as he works through a lineup, making in-game adjustments that show a high degree of mental flexibility and adaptation. He struck out the next batter, Phillip Evans, on five pitches, getting him to chase an elevated fastball for strike three. Next up was Nimmo, lefty enemy, who had doubled earlier off the hanging curve. This time, Moore went after him with the fastball, starting with a 90 mph fastball called a strike, dialing it back to an 81 mph uhh I don’t know slider maybe? It looked like a slider, but the important thing is Nimmo swung right through it. Moore missed high with his next two fastballs, at 91, but was able to kiss the top of the zone with a third and enchant Nimmo to chase after it for strike three. No score on the leadoff triple. Take that, probability.
Moore gave up one more hit in the sixth, to top Mets prospect Amed Rosario. Moore had been winning the battle against Rosario all day, getting the uber-aggressive 21-year-old to swing wildly at his pitches and induce weak contact (a soft 4-3 groundout and a pop-up). After getting after Rosario with the fastball and change, Moore tried to mix in his curve. He got a foul tip that would have been strike three if his catcher had been able to hang on to it, and then went back to the well for a second time. This time, Rosario was ready, smacking a double into left field. Moore would face one more batter, getting yet another run at Dominic Smith. He would again lean heavily on his fastball, but this time spotted its location perfectly against the lefty, putting everything on the lower inside corner of the plate, and was able to get a strikeout—his eighth of the night—to end his outing.
Moore was surprised (and a little peeved) to find himself being lifted from the game after that AB; he had no clue he’d thrown 91 pitches. On a night of an hour-and-a-half rain delay when his college team (OSU) was playing in a Super Regional, his basketball team (the Warriors) was playing in a final, and fellow OSU alum Sam Gaviglio was making the start for the Mariners, Moore was completely locked in, refusing to allow Vegas to get on the board. As fun as it is to watch him develop his arsenal of pitches and continue to adjust to pitching at this level, his composure on the mound is always what I walk away marveling over. Moore’s competitive fire (his mom chalks it up to their Greek blood), combined with a potent Rainiers offense, made for a marvelous night indeed.