Photo by Chris Mezzavilla
It’s been a trying season for Matt Moore, to say the least.
He was supposed to be the sturdy three-man in a renowned starting rotation that already included Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. And for a while, he was.
He stifled the Dodgers in a must-win game for the Giants during a mad-dash, end of season run for the wild card last season and followed it up with an extraordinary effort in Game 4 of the NLDS that any normal bullpen wouldn’t have squandered.
But that hasn’t been the case for the embattled Moore this season, who hasn’t looked comfortable since April and certainly hasn’t pitched like it either. His 5.31 ERA is the highest of the once-pristine Giants rotation and he’s won just five games throughout the entire year.
Yet he’s the one Bruce Bochy will turn to as the Giants eye a series win against a Dodgers team that is just eight games from clinching the division. And for Moore, a win tonight could turn the tide that questions whether or not the Giants will keep him next season into a more favorable wave.
Although Wednesday night’s matchup between Moore and Yu Darvish looks anything but equal, the scales are slightly closer to balanced than usual. Darvish, who will pitch in San Francisco for the first time in his career, has been far from as sharp as he was with the Rangers since coming to Los Angeles. His ERA has jumped from 4.01 to 5.34 and in his 30.1 innings pitched for the Dodgers, he’s given up 35 hits, 18 runs and seven dingers.
The Dodgers are also far from the same team they were two weeks ago. After a 50-game stretch in which they went 43-7 earlier this season, the wheels of Los Angeles’ success train has derailed as the Dodgers then lost eleven straight. While they emerged victorious last night at the Giants’ expense, there is work to be done, not only get back into a winning groove, but also to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Both factors should play into Moore’s favor as he attempts to notch just his sixth win of the season. But, if he succeeds, the win could put Moore’s questionable future with the team in slightly less doubt.
Despite his inconsistencies with his command, Moore has fought to be one of the rotation’s more durable arms, currently ranking just behind Jeff Samardzija in innings pitched with 162.2. He’s pitched at least six innings in eight of his last ten starts and is making promising steps towards returning to the pitcher the Giants expected when they acquired him.
Moore’s problems, however, don’t erect from durability. They come from a lack of consistency, illustrated by his team-leading 59 walks and 96 earned runs. He’s been unable to pitch around baserunners and at times, even looks lost on the mound. Defeating the first-place division rivals would be a boost in both the Giants’ morale, and most importantly Moore’s confidence.
Moore’s contract expires at the end of the year and there’s been no major clues offered indicating what the Giants plan to do with his team option in 2018. Still, Moore can make strides in the right direction by defeating the Dodgers and proving he can still compete. He won’t be an overnight fix, and there’s no guarantee he’ll ever pitch up to the caliber that he was expected to, but it’s a start. And in a season where nearly everything that could go wrong, has, it would be nice to end on a promising note heading into next year.