CLEVELAND -- Matt Moore called Saturday's start a "pretty poor effort" on his part.
And certainly, the rookie left-hander deserved much of the blame for his performance. Moore struggled early and the Rays never recovered in a 7-3 loss to the Indians Saturday night at Progressive Field with 20,658 watching.
The Rays have now lost nine of their last 13 games, to remain in third place in the American League East heading into the final game of the first half Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.
Moore made his 17th start of the season hoping to continue his recent wave of success, which had seen him win his previous five decisions. Indians hitters had other ideas, clubbing five doubles in the second and third innings to take a 5-0 lead.
"Matty did not have one of his better days," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Decent first inning, but then it just got away from him. I mean he just had an uncomfortable look, command issues."
Moore believes winning or losing comes down to one thing.
"Biggest thing is, I'm either going to be putting the pressure on them or they are going to be putting the pressure on me," Moore said. "And I couldn't find an adjustment to make it the opposite. And tonight they put the pressure on me. Every time I came into the zone, it was 2-0, 1-0, so I was pitching behind a lot, which I'm not good at, ever."
Moore had trouble finding the strike zone. Just 54 of the 96 pitches he threw were strikes, leading to five walks and five runs in 4 2/3 innings en route to his sixth loss of the season.
"We were making sure we had quality at-bats and see if we could get his pitch count up, and [being] aware that he's a good fastball pitcher," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He's a young guy. He's got the stuff, but he's still a young guy. You get those guys on the ropes, and they make a mistake. We ran his pitch count pretty good, and that was a key for us."
Moore is just 23, but he's got a world of talent and he knows there is much knowledge to come about pitching in the Major Leagues. Saturday night he just couldn't find a way to make the right adjustments to combat the Indians' bats.
"I've worked out of situations by making an adjustment, it just didn't happen tonight," Moore said. "There are times when I can be behind 2-0 and get a ground ball. But that's a good lineup tonight. They came out patient but ready when I did come in the zone with something. I just wasn't doing a very good job of giving them different looks in the zone." Ubaldo Jimenez started for the Indians and notched three scoreless innings before facing Luke Scott in the fourth.
Friday night Scott had ended an 0-for-41 slump with a two-run homer. Batting with two outs and a runner aboard Saturday night, Scott connected on an 0-1 fastball and deposited the ball 409 feet over the center-field wall for his 11th home run of the season, cutting the Indians' lead to 5-2.
But that would be all the Rays could manage against the Indians right-hander.
"He stayed consistently down in the zone, [when a pitcher does that] it doesn't matter how good a hitter you are it's going to be tough to hit," Rays shortstop Sean Rodriguez said.
Jimenez held the Rays to two runs on five hits in six innings while striking out eight en route to his eighth win of the season.
"He kept the ball down and he was throwing strikes," Maddon said. "That's what I saw. Low fastball strike, commanded his fastball off that. Whenever he dropped down, he dropped down for two breaking balls and one fastball from the drop-down slot -- with command. Overall, he was pretty sharp. But again, we didn't really have that opportunity to really pressure him because they got on top and he looked rather comfortable."
Jimenez said he threw more breaking balls than he normally does.
"They have a really good lineup, and they're really aggressive," Jimenez said. "They don't give you a break with the fastball. If you're able to locate your breaking balls, why not throw it?"
Old Rays nemesis Shelley Duncan hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Wade Davis to push the Indians' lead to 7-2 before B.J. Upton hit a solo homer in the ninth to finish the scoring.
"We're still making too many awkward mistakes," Maddon said. "Even the punchouts, 12 today, I don't even know how many were looking -- there were a ton of looking strike threes today. ... We have to be better at moving the ball, giving us a chance with two strikes. ... We just have to play a better game of baseball. Offensively, defensively, not make the mistakes, we just have to play a better brand of baseball, which we are capable of."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.