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TB@DET: Moore fans four in first start of 2012 season

DETROIT -- To Matt Moore, Tuesday's snow flurries at Comerica Park felt like January baseball practices back home at Moriarty High School in New Mexico.

And the Rays' 22-year-old left-hander looked just that comfortable pitching to the Tigers' lineup, a well-regarded group that many feel is the best in baseball. Moore had just one problem: Austin Jackson.

By the end of the day, Jackson's work made for the only real blemishes on Moore's line. And ultimately, the final blemish administered by Jackson triggered a chain of events that led to a 5-2 defeat, Tampa Bay's first of the season.

By the time Detroit's leadoff hitter stepped in to face Moore with two out in the bottom of the seventh and the Rays ahead, 2-1, Jackson had already seen 17 pitches from Moore.

Moore struck out Jackson looking in the first, then walked him twice. After the walk in the third, Jackson eventually scored on a Moore wild pitch. In his fourth at-bat, Jackson fell behind in the count, 1-2, before working the count full. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat -- and the 24th pitch Jackson saw from Moore on the day -- Jackson connected on a fastball and drove the pitch 367 feet over the left-field wall for a game-tying homer.

"I tried to get a little big on it, threw it and wound up pulling it right in the middle of the zone for him," Moore said. "He'd seen 12 to 15 fastballs, if not more than that."

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon removed Moore after the homer that came on the rookie's 106th pitch.

"Jackson put [Moore] behind the eight ball," Maddon said. "He sucked up a bunch of pitches against him. I think that was the turning point of the game, the overall approach to Jackson. He not only saw a lot of pitches on his walks, but he also hit the home run on the full count.

"Those are the kinds of things that don't really get spoken about, but again, if he's able to be more efficient against him, he's probably able to pitch into the eighth inning."

Instead, Moore lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing only four hits and two runs on five walks and four strikeouts to earn a no-decision, making an indelible impression in the process.

"That kid's really good," Gerald Laird said. "I mean, look at him: He's bringing 95-plus [mph] with a changeup and a slider."

Added Tigers manager Jim Leyland: "That's guy terrific. To be honest, that's the first time I've seen him live, and he was as advertised. I was really impressed."

Jake McGee took over for Moore and retired Brennan Boesch on a flyout to left to end the seventh. Maddon then opted to leave in the left-handed McGee to start the eighth, even though he had the right-handed Joel Peralta available to pitch to the always dangerous Miguel Cabrera.

"There's no advantage to gain by bringing in Peralta because he's right-handed," Maddon said. "This guy [Cabrera] doesn't know righty from lefty. I liked Jake's velocity against him a lot."

McGee quickly got ahead of Cabrera, 0-2, before the slugger fouled off two pitches. After watching ball one go past, Cabrera hopped on a McGee fastball and drove the pitch off the wall in center field for a double.

"Yeah, I was trying to go a little more up and a little more away with it," McGee said. "And it just leaked a little more over the plate."

Prince Fielder followed with a single to center to drive home Cabrera for what turned out to be the winning run. Jhonny Peralta added a sacrifice fly off Burke Badenhop, and Laird hit an RBI single to cap Detroit's three-run eighth.

Tampa Bay got on the board first with a two-out rally in the third. Reid Brignac and Desmond Jennings cobbled together singles before Tigers starter Rick Porcello hit Carlos Pena to load the bases. Evan Longoria then drew a walk to put the Rays up, 1-0.

Detroit answered in the bottom half of the inning when Jackson scored on the Moore wild pitch. Tampa Bay then broke the tie in the seventh when Jose Molina hit a ground-rule double and moved to third with one out on a groundout. Jennings' infield single to deep shortstop drove home Molina, giving the Rays a 2-1 lead.

"[The Tigers] are good offensively," Longoria said. "I thought Matt did a great job of pitching today. He really silenced their bats for the better part of the game. You know, they got a couple of key hits late and we didn't. But they are a good offensive ballclub."

But Leyland talked of pitching. Porcello matched up well with Moore, allowing two runs on seven hits in seven innings. Phil Coke and Jose Valverde then took care of the eighth and ninth to finish off the Rays.

"The only chance we had today was for Rick to keep us in the game and pitch good, and that's what he did," Leyland said. Comments