Yes, the title is a song by the great rock band Boston. And, yes, it is meant to be a subtle jab at the Boston Red Sox. And, yes, Joe Maddon’s decision to start 22 year old rookie left-hander Matt Moore was more than a gut feeling. My manager of the year knew exactly what he was doing all along.
Maddon could have started ace starter James Shields in game one. The same James Shields who will garner down-ballot Cy Young attention with his 249.1 innings pitched, 11 complete games, 4 shutouts, 225 strikeouts, and 2.82 ERA. Only problem was that Shields would have been on short rest.
Starting Shields on short rest would usually be an easy decision for most managers. You would naturally want your ace in game one in case he is needed in game 5. Maddon decided to deploy his ace in the hole, though.
Matt Moore, with all of one career Major League start under his belt, took the ball in game one, in Arlington, and on national television. What happened next was a thing of pitching and managerial beauty.
Moore mowed down opposing Texas Rangers. In 7 innings he allowed a mere 2 hits and 2 walks and struck out 6 while allowing no runs against the 2nd best offense in the game in one of the best hitter’s parks in the game.
Moore was near the zone most of the afternoon and left the zone a few times for a few swings and misses. He also induced more groundballs than fly balls (8-7) and dominated with fastballs, throwing 76 of them out of his 98 total pitches, and averaging 94.4 mph on the pitch. Let me remind you that the Rangers were the best fastball hitting team in the game with a wFB of +113.6.
There was a game plan. It was apparent from the first at-bat when Ian Kinsler saw 9 pitches and they were all fastballs. There was a series plan. Rest the starters and deploy the ace in the hole and if a game 5 is needed then you throw Shields on short rest.
Rays manager Joe Maddon is not your conventional manager. Most, if not all, managers would not have started a 22 year old with one career start in a game 1 of the playoffs but Maddon did. Some may say he had a gut feeling but it was more than that. He had a plan and the plan has him and his team up 1-0 against the World Series favorite Rangers and they haven’t pitched their ace yet.