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TB@HOU: Moore blanks Astros over seven sharp innings

HOUSTON -- The Rays have given lefty starter Matt Moore ample run support this season, scoring nearly six runs per game over his 16 starts. They upped the ante on Monday, and Moore returned the favor in a 12-0 win over the Astros to open a four-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Moore improved to 11-3 with seven innings of two-hit ball, striking out nine while walking three, and the Rays won for the third consecutive time after taking the final two games of a series with Detroit.

Moore did not face more than four batters in any inning and was threatened only once, that coming in the fourth inning. It was also the only inning that the Astros had more than one baserunner against Moore, who after yielding a walk and a single to put runners on the corners with no outs, struck out J.D. Martinez and got Matt Dominguez to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

"Being on the same page with [catcher Jose Lobaton] was great," Moore said. "It just makes the tempo and the rhythm that much better. I think it's a little bit tougher on the hitter as well.

"Being able to bury stuff when I needed to and having trust in him back there to block it. He was throwing his body around the place today."

Astros first baseman Chris Carter singled in the fourth inning after leadoff batter Jake Elmore singled in the third. That accounted for all of Houston's offense.

"We had two hits off of him, but we know he makes it tough," Carter said. "I think he threw a lot of strikes early, which made his secondary pitches good, so it was tough to get something going."

Cesar Ramos closed out the gem with two hitless innings of relief work. Ramos struck out two and did not walk a batter. Moore and Ramos combined to retire the last 17 Astros in order.

Ryan Roberts hit two homers to highlight the Rays' offensive explosion that included 17 hits and another seven baserunners by walks. It was Roberts' fourth career multi-homer game and second this season. He hit two against the Yankees on April 22.

It's also the sixth multi-homer game this season for the Rays. Evan Longoria last accomplished the feat on June 20 against the Yankees.

James Loney struck out in the first inning with the bases loaded and two outs, but got the Rays on the board in the third inning with a sacrifice fly to left field. Wil Myers, who walked and moved to third on Ben Zobrist's double, scored the first run of the game and the Rays didn't miss many chances after that.

Roberts belted his fourth homer of the year on the next pitch from Astros starter Dallas Keuchel (4-5). The two-run shot into the left-field seats extended the Rays' lead to 3-0.

The Rays padded the lead with three consecutive two-out hits in the fifth inning. Ten of the Rays' 12 runs were scored with two outs. Roberts started the rally with a single and Lobaton followed with an RBI double scoring Yunel Escobar, who drew his second of the five walks issued by Keuchel.

Roberts blasted his second homer of the game with one out in the eighth inning to increase the lead to 10-0. His towering shot to left-center came on a 2-2 pitch from right-hander Hector Ambriz.

"Everything I've been dealing with, everything I've been praying about, was answered tonight," Roberts said of his spectacular game.

But he wasn't the only one. Sam Fuld went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and Sean Rodriguez had a career-high four hits with three RBIs. Oddly enough, Rodriguez was the only Rays' starter that did not cross the plate.

"Hitting, it's electric," Roberts said. "Guys up and down the lineup swung the bat well. To see the guys come out and do it tonight, it was awesome to be a part of."

It also helps calm your starting pitcher.

"It's fun to pitch," Moore said of the support. "The pace of the game is quicker. The long innings sometimes can get to us but it's all good when we're scoring that many runs."

Keuchel threw 108 pitches and didn't make it out of the fifth inning. The Astros' lefty gave up eight hits and five runs over his 4 2/3 innings of work. He struck out four.

"Hitting is a contagious thing," Roberts said. "No matter how you look at it. It's kind of motivation for everybody to get comfortable and take good swings. It's how the game goes."

The Rays have now won six of their past eight games and eight of 12. They are now 24-15 against teams outside of the American League East. It was also the sixth straight win for the Rays over Houston -- all at Minute Maid Park.

It was a total team effort that resulted in a season-high-tying 12 runs and the 24 baserunners.

"There were some new heroes today and everybody was involved," said Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I liked the quality of the at-bat. We weren't chasing. Keuchel was attempting to get us to chase the changeup under the zone -- we didn't do it.

"Had we been doing that, he would have pitched longer in that game. The pitches we did not swing at were big."

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