BOSTON — Matt Moore keeps struggling when he warms up in the bullpen before the game. Then he dominates when he gets out to the mound.
Joe Maddon is eager to see the trend continue.
“Maybe we’ll kick him in the shins before he goes out,” the Tampa Bay manager said after Moore pitched his first career shutout, a two-hitter to beat the Boston Red Sox 3-0 on Monday night and give the Rays their sixth consecutive win.
Ben Zobrist had three hits and James Loney drove in two runs for the Rays, who have lost just twice in 20 games since June 28. In the last month, the Rays have improved from last place to one-half game behind Boston in the AL East.
“I really believed we were going to get back into it,” Maddon said. “I didn’t know when.”
In his first start since pitching a scoreless fifth inning in the All-Star game, Moore (14-3) gave up Mike Napoli’s single in the second and David Ortiz’s base-hit in the seventh. Ortiz took second on a wild pitch — the only baserunner to get past first.
“That was impressive to watch,” Red Sox starter Brandon Workman said.
Moore walked one batter, struck out four and needed just 109 pitches — just three of them were “non-competitive,” pitching coach Jim Hickey said — for his first career complete game and his sixth win in a row. He needed just six pitches to get through the sixth inning.
“I think that’s the most efficient I’ve been,” Moore said. “I think that’s probably the best game I’ve ever thrown (considering) the Red Sox are playing well, and we’re on the road.”
Moore said he struggled in the bullpen trying to warm up before the game — just as he did at Citi Field for last week’s All-Star game.
“It was pretty bad back there,” he said. “But I told (catcher Jose Lobaton), ‘We’re going to be OK. We’ll figure it out out there.’ “
Workman (0-1) made his second career start, giving up two runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out four in six innings.
“Overall, a very well-pitched game on both sides. But Matt Moore was the story of the night,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said. “We really didn’t have a chance to get anything going.”
Workman, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his other start, allowed three straight singles to start the game before Loney made it 1-0 on a sacrifice fly.
Loney, who rejoined the team from the paternity list on Sunday, also had a run-scoring single in the fifth. Loney was the only established major-leaguer acquired by Boston in last-season’s salary-dumping trade that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Desmond Jennings drove in the third run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth off Jose De La Torre.
Yunel Escobar, who hadn’t played since the All-Star break because of a right hamstring strain, returned to the lineup for Tampa Bay and went 1 for 2 with two walks and a run. He played errorless defense at shortstop for the 53rd consecutive game, a club record.
NOTES: The Red Sox said a second opinion on Clay Buchholz’s right shoulder by Dr. James Andrews showed no significant structural damage and he was cleared to resume throwing. … In his last six starts, all wins, Moore has a 1.50 ERA. … Wil Myers sat out the game with a sore left wrist. … The Red Sox are 9-4 against the Rays this season. … In Workman’s previous start, he had his no-hit bid broken up by Coco Crisp’s infield hit to start the seventh inning.