NEW YORK -- After all the anticipation, all the fanfare and maybe even a few nervous moments, Matt Moore found two occasions to relax Tuesday night at Citi Field.
The first came just after Moore ran out to the mound to pitch the fifth inning for the American League in his first All-Star Game. For all the things that were different and unusual about the buildup to that moment, standing there on the mound felt normal.
"I was nervous leading up to it," Moore admitted. "I think when I got out there, I just was trying to pick up [AL catcher Joe Mauer's] glove."
The Rays' 24-year-old lefty made it look easy, as he needed only nine pitches to toss a perfect frame in the AL's 3-0 victory over the National League.
"I feel like I've taken a deep breath since I got done on the mound," Moore said. "It really is something that, the whole time, is hanging over my head: 'I'm going to pitch in this game. I'm going to pitch in this game. I'm going to have a chance to make a difference.'
"I feel like I was trying to keep it cool and focus on why I was here. I was here to enjoy the experience with a lot of different teammates, and I was also here to help win a ballgame. I had a tremendous time doing both."
Amazing experience! Most memorable part wil definitely be Mariano Rivera pitching a perfect 8th inning. Thank you all for the nice thoughts!- Matt Moore (@MattyMoe55) July 17, 2013
Moore induced a quick groundout from Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to begin his outing. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, brother of Rays catcher Jose, got ahead 2-0 and fouled off two pitches before grounding out to Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. Moore's last batter went down on just one pitch, a 91-mph fastball that Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki popped up to Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Before he flew to New York, Moore received some simple words of wisdom from Rays ace David Price, a three-time All-Star. Price told Moore to soak in each part of the experience, to not get overwhelmed by the unusual surroundings or let all the fanfare cause him to rush through anything. While Moore clearly heeded that advice, he said having previously pitched to Gonzalez and Tulowitzki obviously helped him feel at ease.
"I have faced these guys before, so it's not like when you get called up from Double-A or Triple-A and now you're facing Michael Cuddyer, who you've only seen hitting homers on SportsCenter," Moore said. "It wasn't like that."
Moore admitted before Tuesday's game that it wouldn't be easy to stay focused, saying everything involved with the All-Star experience was "much more than I was anticipating." Between a round of interviews and signing autographs Monday, the parade in Manhattan early Tuesday afternoon and chatting up his fellow AL All-Stars before the game, it was almost easy to forget that he had to pitch Tuesday night.
But he pitched about as well as he could have, leaving his fellow Rays All-Star impressed but certainly not surprised.
"He was phenomenal. It was quick, he threw a lot of strikes, showcased how smooth his delivery is and how deceptive his changeup is," Ben Zobrist said. "Did he even throw a curveball? Did he have to? He threw really well and showcased what he's capable of."
Zobrist, meanwhile, didn't get a chance to take the field at all. He got loose in the fifth inning, taking a few swings in the batting cage, but he could tell he wouldn't necessarily be needed as the AL's pitching staff cruised to a three-hit shutout. That didn't stop Zobrist from enjoying his time in the dugout, particularly the moment in which the entire stadium recognized Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
"I knew there was probably not a great chance of me getting in the game, but it was a blast just to be here, to be a part of it, to be on the bench rooting the guys on and getting a chance to put the All-Star patch on your shoulder and things like that," Zobrist said. "It's something I'll certainly cherish."
And if the Rays accomplish what they've set out to this season, Tuesday night's victory could mean a whole lot more for Tampa Bay's All-Stars.
"Ultimately, that was the main goal coming here: to get that win and secure home-field advantage for the World Series," Zobrist said. "We feel good about our team, and I believe that we can be that team that starts it off at Tropicana Field."