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Matt Moore, Rays Pitcher, Earns Surprise Start Against Rangers In MLB Playoffs

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MATT MOORE
Matt Moore #55 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the New York Yankees on September 22, 2011 at Yankee Stadium. | Getty

Justin Verlander
CC Sabathia
Ian Kennedy
C.J. Wilson
Kyle Lohse
Yovani Gallardo
Roy Halladay
Matt Moore

Each of these eight men will start in his team's opening game in the 2011 MLB Playoffs, but one of these things is not like the others. Well, maybe two of these things, depending on your opinion of Lohse.

Seven of the eight pitchers listed above won at 14 games this season.
Seven of the eight pitchers listed above led -- or were tied -- their team in wins this season.

In both cases, the odd man out is Tampa Bay Rays rookie Matt Moore, who will make just his second ever start in the Majors this afternoon in Arlington. He's so unproven that he'll still be a rookie next year.

With Game 1 in a five-game series being so crucial, every club is looking to send its ace to the hill. Even Lohse, the St. Louis Cardinals' off-brand starter in Game 1 of the NLDS, was 14-8 this year with a 3.39 ERA over 30 starts. The 22-year-old Moore, on the other hand, has only one Major League start on his resume.

Moore made his first start on Sept. 22 against the Yankees. In the bottom of the first, the 6-foot-2 lefty struck out Derek Jeter to start his outing. Eduardo Nunez then grounded back to Moore, who retired him with a throw to first. Up next was Mark Teixeira, who demolished Moore's teammate David Price the other night. Moore struck him out swinging.

Moore threw five scoreless frames, allowing just four hits and striking out 11. Against a Yankees offense that was second in the American League in runs and top of the heap in home runs. In the Bronx. Not too shabby (even if the Yankees were resting Cano and Granderson). Prior to that outing, Moore's highest profile start was likely in the 2011 Futures Game during the All-Star break in Arizona. An eight-round pick in the same 2007 MLB Draft when the Rays picked up Price, Moore brought some serious heat to the desert, with some of his pitches being clocked at 100 MPH on the stadium radar gun. Moore needed just 11 pitches to retire the side in his inning of work during the U.S. Team's win over the World squad.

Having paced the minor leagues in strikeouts in 2009 and 2010, Moore's profile has been rising steadily since being drafted. At the start of the 2011 season, Baseball America ranked him as the No. 15 prospect in the game.

Nevertheless, Moore ranks among the most unlikely playoff starters in history, with just 9.1 innings total (he had two relief appearances) in the Majors. Of course, this isn't the first time that Tampa skipper Joe Maddon has gone with a talented neophyte in a big spot. He famously installed Price as his closer during the team's run to the 2008 playoffs. Price had just 14 innings logged during the regular season but earned a win in Game 2 of the ALCS and the save in Game 7.

"Right now, I'm just at the point where I'm going to keep my head down until someone taps me on the shoulder and says, 'Hey, you're ready,'" Moore told MLB.com at the Futures Game.

That tap came this week. Will he be ready?

UPDATE: Matt Moore was most definitely ready. The young lefty threw seven innings of two-hit ball as the Rays romped to a 9-0 win over the Rangers in Arlingoton.

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