Matt Moore is coming off yet another defeat, but the Tampa Bay Rays believe their highly-touted 22-year-old is on the verge of a breakthrough.
Fellow rookie Drew Hutchison is starting to hold his own in the Toronto Blue Jays' rotation.
With Moore looking to avoid losing a fourth straight start and Hutchison aiming to win a third consecutive outing, the Rays and Blue Jays continue a three-game set Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
Moore (1-4, 5.20 ERA), who pitched phenomenal ball in a late-season call-up and an AL division series in 2011, has struggled thus far in his first full season in the majors.
The hard-throwing left-hander dropped his third consecutive start Thursday, a 5-3 loss to Boston. Moore allowed a run in each of the first three innings but settled down thereafter, putting together three scoreless frames and finishing with a season-high eight strikeouts.
"I thought he finished really strong," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's definitely a game to build off. He definitely pitched well enough to win. Confidence is a big thing. I know he's going to sleep better. Despite the loss, he's going to feel better about himself."
Moore, who walked 22 over his first seven outings, issued just one free pass against the Red Sox - a trend he's hoping carries over to Tuesday.
"Honestly, I know the numbers haven't really shown it," catcher Chris Gimenez told the Rays' official website, "but he's been making steps in the right direction. It's just kind of up to him now to put it all together. Once he gets two or three quality starts together, I think it's really going to start rolling downhill for him and he's just going to kind of take it and run with it."
Moore will get his first look at the Blue Jays (24-19), who are pleased with what they've seen lately from Hutchison (3-1, 4.81).
Five days after giving up one run and three hits over six innings of a 2-1 win at Minnesota, the 21-year-old right-hander yielded one run and five hits in six innings against the New York Yankees, getting credit for Thursday's 4-1 victory.
"If the game is speeding up on him mentally, he certainly doesn't show it outwardly," Toronto manager John Farrell said. "One of the reasons why we felt, with limited experience even above A-ball, he could handle this environment (was) because of the poise and composure, and he shows that almost every start. He does a very good job of keeping the game under control."
It hasn't all been smooth sailing for Hutchison, who's had to overcome four walks in each of his last two starts. He has never faced Tampa Bay (25-18).
After dropping four straight in this series, Toronto opened a six-game road swing Monday with its fifth win in six games overall, beating the Rays 6-2. Kyle Drabek threw six solid innings and Yunel Escobar went 2 for 4 with his second homer.
Brett Lawrie went 0 for 4 in his return from a four-game suspension for his tirade during last Tuesday's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay. Lawrie had hit safely in each of his previous nine games against the Rays.
Tampa Bay is hitting .203 during a 1-4 slide.