Finding fault with Matt Moore these days is no easy task. But he seems to have zeroed in on one flaw.
MLB.com's No. 1 pitching prospect, struck out 10 over six shutout innings Friday, but his early exit and the bullpen's struggle cost him a fourth straight victory in Durham's 3-2 road loss to the Buffalo Bisons.
"Any starter in any rotation wants to have that label where you can go deep, let the bullpen breathe easy, leave them six outs or even three outs," Moore said. "The more outs you record, the less they have to, because as the season goes along, bullpens get abused."
Early on, Moore appeared ready to match his eight-inning gem on July 27 in his second of five Triple-A outings. He retired the first nine Bisons before Jordany Valdespin led off the fourth with a double.
Valdespin and Josh Satin were the batters Moore worried about most entering the night. They ended up going 1-for-7.
"I had faced their one- and two-hole hitters before last year," he said. "I hadn't had very much success against them. ... I knew there were certain piches not to throw to 'Valdy.'"
The 22-year-old left-hander also allowed a fifth-inning single to big league veteran Mike Nickeas. He threw 96 pitches and conceded his double-digit strikes upped that count.
In 30 2/3 innings spread over five International League starts, the 2007 eighth-round Draft pick has fanned 49 batters.
"The total number is one thing," Moore said. "Getting them in big situations is another."
In the Bisons' lone scoring opportunities -- with Valdespin on second in the fourth and Fernando Perez on second in the sixth -- Moore struck out four of the six batters he faced.
So beyond finding a way to both rack up strikeouts and go deeper into the game, what is there to work on?
"There's nothing really in the project [stage] right now. Consistency and command of all three pitches is still the goal," he said. "I'm not trying too hard each time to do what I did the last time out."
And yet, he does.
Dane De La Rosa (4-4) recorded his third blown save when he yielded three runs on three hits in the seventh.
In his second Triple-A appearance, Bulls shortstop Tim Beckham went 2-for-4 with an RBI against Bisons starter Pat Misch (7-7). The veteran southpaw came within two outs of a complete game and gave up two runs on eight hits while striking out nine.