ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If Matt Moore has been a reliable starting pitcher in a difficult month for the Tampa Bay Rays, the bullpen has been reliably bad, giving up runs in 17 of the previous 18 games -- including 16 losses -- before Monday.
Moore had a strong start and the bullpen followed with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, helping the Rays to a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field.
"It was just a matter of time before things turn around," Moore said after winning for the third time in four starts. "Today, leaving seven outs on their plate, that's not as much. You feel worse when it's 9 of 12. They did a good job, especially (Ryan) Garton coming in for his first save."
Moore (5-5) held the Angels to two runs in 6 2/3 innings. In the last 22 games, Moore is 3-1, and the rest of the Rays are 3-15.
Tampa Bay (34-48) won for just the third time in 19 games, while the Angels (33-50) have lost 12 of 14 contests. The Rays' bullpen, which had allowed runs in 17 of the last 18 games, recorded the final seven outs. Garton struck out Mike Trout and got C.J. Cron to pop out foul in the ninth, stranding two runners for his first career save.
The Rays caught a break on the second-to-last batter of the game, as Albert Pujols ripped a hard ground ball that went off the glove of third baseman Evan Longoria, but hit the third-base umpire in the foot, keeping the ball from going into the outfield for extra bases. That kept runners at first and third and a two-run lead, instead of putting the tying run in scoring position.
"Thank the umpire," Rays manager Kevin Cash said for the lucky bounce.
The Rays jumped ahead in the sixth off reliever Fernando Salas, with Brad Miller getting a single and scoring from second on an RBI single by Logan Morrison. Up 3-2, Morrison scored on an RBI double down the left-field line from Steven Souza for a 4-2 lead.
Moore got himself into and out of several jams -- in the third, he gave up a two-out double to Yunel Escobar and a single to Trout but got Pujols to fly out to center to strand two. In the fourth, after tying the game at 1-1, the Angels had runners at second and third with two outs, and Shane Robinson flied out to center. In the fifth, runners at first and third and Johnny Giavotella popped out to right.
Moore left in the seventh with his second straight quality start -- he held Boston to three hits in seven shutout innings in earning a win on Wednesday. In his last five starts, he has three wins and a 2.43 ERA.
"He has good stuff -- he has a good fastball, changes speeds, threw some curveballs and pitched a good game for them," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We had our opportunities but he made some pitches to get out of them."
Jefry Marte's solo home run in the sixth tied the game at 2-2, but the Angels had a chance to take the lead, with Jett Bandy getting a double and advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt. Robinson hit a hard grounder to third, where Longoria threw home, getting Robinson caught in a 5-2-5-1 rundown. Moore got a comebacker from Escobar to end the inning and strand Robinson at second.
Marte left the game with a left knee contusion -- he was hit by a pitch in the at-bat before the home run -- but Scioscia said he was OK.
The Rays took early leads on a pair of solo home runs -- Miller hit his 12th in the third inning for a 1-0 lead, only to see Los Angeles tie the game in the fourth on an RBI double by Andrelton Simmons. Morrison hit his ninth home run for a 2-1 lead in the fourth off Angels starter Nick Tropeano, called up before the game to start. Tropeano held the Rays to the two runs on four hits in his five innings, striking out four.
"Our starting rotation has been really a project to get together," Scioscia said. "If you're not setting the tone with that starting pitcher, it makes it tough for the rest of your pieces to fall into place. Hopefully we'll get there."
NOTES: Adding a much-needed arm to an overworked bullpen, the Rays placed OF Desmond Jennings on the disabled list (retroactive to July 1) with a hamstring injury, opening up a spot to recall RHP Tyler Sturdevant. Jennings is hitting .202 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. Manager Kevin Cash said he is hopeful Jennings can be back right after the All-Star break. Sturdevant, 30, was 0-1 with a 4.80 ERA in 13 games in previous stints with the Rays. ... Angels 3B Yunel Escobar, who played for the Rays last season, entered the game with an eight-game hitting streak after getting four hits in Sunday's loss to Boston. He came in with a .400 average when batting leadoff. ... Going back to Saturday's 21-2 Angels win over Boston, C.J. Cron and Carlos Perez became the first teammates since 1920 to combine for at least 11 hits and 11 RBIs in the same game.