The last time Matt Moore took the mound at Fenway Park, he muzzled the Red Sox over nine shutout innings in July.
And for the first three innings of his Division Series start against them, it seemed like he was going to do the same thing.
He held the Sox hitless through three frames.
Then, stitch by stitch, Moore watched his start unravel.
Between Dustin Pedroia’s leadoff single, David Ortiz’s confounding deep-but-routine fly ball that became a ground-rule double, fly balls from Jonny Gomes and Will Middlebrooks that pinballed off the Green Monster, Moore quickly lost his grip on a start he appeared to control.
After that five-run fourth inning, Moore was never able to gather himself, ultimately allowing eight runs (seven earned) over 4⅓ innings of a 12-2 loss. It was the most runs ever allowed by a Tampa Bay starter in the postseason.
“Matty was not bad,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He was actually pretty good tonight.
“It was just an unfortunate inning. With a more normal inning, he could have pitched deep into the game.
“We just kind of messed it up in that inning. But mistakes will kill you. We’re normally not the team that makes those kind of mistakes. We did tonight.”
The play that sent everything off the rails was Ortiz’s fly ball to right-center just in front of the Red Sox bullpen.
Rookie right fielder Wil Myers seemed to be calling for the ball as he tracked backward toward the short fence. Inexplicably, he lost the ball, letting it bounce in for a double.
“I feel bad for Matty, I feel bad for our team,” said center fielder Desmond Jennings. “I would say it was a play that we should make.”
Even with so many things malfunctioning around him, Moore could only look at his own performance.
“Regardless of what the defense did, there was a lot of base hits,” Moore said. “A lot of doubles off the Wall. Those are things that I can speak about right now.”
A cycle for a pitcher
The last time David Price was in Boston, he went out for dinner with Rays teammate Chris Archer. On the way back, as he passed by the Boston Public Library, he couldn’t help but notice the bicycle rack along the sidewalk.
“I can’t believe I just now saw this for the first time,” he remembered saying. “I would’ve been riding bikes throughout the city, or at least to the field, if I knew that.”
Since that was the Rays’ last regular-season trip to Boston, he figured he’d put it on his to-do list for next year.
The way things have shaken out, his return trip came sooner than he thought.
So when the Rays arrived in Boston Thursday, Price jumped at the chance to take advantage of the Hubway bikes.
He rode one from the Rays’ workout at Fenway back to the team hotel and then again Friday morning for the opener.
Price, who is scheduled to start Game 2 Saturday, said, “It’s just fun. I enjoy it.”
Considering that he has seen Price throw a bullpen session in a Vanderbilt football uniform — helmet and all — Maddon wasn’t surprised.
“It doesn’t surprise me, anything that he does,” said Maddon, who is known to ride his bike to Rays home games. “Riding the bike’s normally my thing, but that doesn’t surprise me, anything that David does.
“I love his ways. He’s a young man that’s — he’s Peter Pan. He’s going to be that way forever and I love that about him. I wish more of our guys could be that way. “
Coming off a complete game against the Rangers that sent the Rays to the postseason, Price will face a Sox team that he mostly kept in check this season, going 2-2 with a 2.48 ERA and 30 strikeouts in five starts against them.
But pitching against them in the postseason, he said, is different.
“It’s just pitching against the Red Sox or pitching against a team like the Yankees, you know the history behind those franchises,” Price said. “You know what they’re capable of doing.
“If you come with your B game, B-plus game, you have a pretty good chance to lose.”
No hard feelings
With a large lead late in the game, the Red Sox didn’t lift off the pedal. In the eighth inning, up eight runs, they stole a base and scored on a hit-and-run. Maddon, however, didn’t see it as the Sox trying to show up his team. “That’s their prerogative,” Maddon said. “I’ve never been one to use that term ‘embarrassed.’ If you get embarrassed in the game, I blame it on me, us. The accountability lies with the Rays, not the Red Sox doing their job. The object of the game is to score runs, and that’s what they were doing.’’ . . . Should a Game 4 be necessary, Jeremy Hellickson will be the Rays’ starter. Hellickson went 12-10 this season with a 5.17 ERA, struggling mightily in August, when he went 0-4 and gave up 21 runs over five starts.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.