Is Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon off his rocker? He's starting rookie Matt Moore in Game 1 against the Rangers. This is a guy with one career major league start and just 9.1 career innings. On the other hand, he's the best pitching prospect in the game, throws in the high 90s and struck out 11 Yankees in five innings in that one start (although the Yankees did bench several of their regulars). Also, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis have fared poorly against current Rangers -- Niemann has allowed a .346 average (27 for 78) and Davis has a .489 batting average (22-for-45).
While James Shields will be set to go in Game 2 and then Game 5 on regular rest if needed, make no mistake: Game 1 is vitally important. Since 1995, the team that won the first game of the Division Series went on to win 47 of 64 series.
That said, I love the move. Just like he used untested rookie David Price as his closer in the 2008 playoffs, Maddon is showing supreme confidence in a young lefty with a power arm. (By the way, Moore is allowed on the postseason roster even though he wasn't on the Aug. 31 roster since he's technically replacing Alex Cobb, who is on the DL.) Anyway, it's still one of the more unique starting pitchers we've seen in a postseason game. Here are a few others:
Yovani Gallardo, Brewers, 2008 Division Series. Gallardo had missed most of the season after knee surgery but made four late-season starts, although without a win. But with the Brewers clinching a playoff spot only on the final day (and CC Sabathia pitching that game), Gallardo was tabbed for Game 1. He allowed three unearned runs in four innings in a 3-1 loss to the Phillies.
Bob Wolcott, Mariners, 1995 ALCS. A rookie with just six starts and a 4.42 ERA, Wolcott wasn't even on the Division Series roster. But after a taxing five-game win against the Yankees, he started the first game against Cleveland and won 3-2 (despite allowing 13 runners in five innings). Before Moore, Wolcott was the most inexperienced pitcher to start the first game of a postseason series.
Ted Power, Pirates, 1990 NLCS. Power was a reliever who hadn't started all season when Jim Leyland tagged him to start Game 6 against the Reds. The reason? The Reds had a platoon-heavy lineup so Leyland's plan was to get Lou Piniella to start the left-handed hitters and then bring in Zane Smith. Power gave up one run in 2.1 inning and Smith one run over four, so the plan worked, but the Pirates lost 2-1.
Marty Bystrom, Phillies, 1980 NLCS/World Series. Another raw rookie, Bystrom had made five late-season starts and went 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA. He wasn't that good (he'd had a 3.66 ERA in Triple-A), but he was hot. The Phillies could have gone with veteran Dick Ruthven in Game 5 of the NLCS (remember, it was best-of-5 back then) against the Astros, but went instead with Bystrom. He left in the sixth with a 2-2 tie. With the World Series tied 2-2, he started another Game 5 and got a no-decision in an eventual 4-3 win for the Phillies.
Joe Black, Dodgers, 1952 World Series. Black was a rookie who had started just two games, but he'd gone 15-4 with a 2.15 ERA in 142 innings and Chuck Dressen figured he was the team's best pitcher, so he ended up starting three games in the World Series. He pitched OK (2.53 ERA), but ended up the losing pitcher in Games 4 and 7 (he allowed three runs in 5.1 innings in Game 7).
Virgil Trucks, Tigers, 1945 World Series. Trucks had pitched one game all season and didn't win, so remains the only pitcher to start a World Series game with no regular-season victories. But this one had extenuating circumstances: He had been released from the Navy two weeks before the end of the season and was allowed on the Detroit roster. He started Game 2 and Game 6. And, yes his nickname was "Fire."
Howard Ehmke, A's, 1929 World Series. One of the most controversial postseason moves for many years was Connie Mack's decision to start Ehmke -- a seemingly washed-up veteran -- in Game 1 against the Cubs, over Hall of Famer Lefty Grove. But Mack had dispatched Ehmke to scout the Cubs, feeling the Cubs would have trouble hitting Ehmke's slow stuff. They did; he struck out 13 and won 3-1.