BOSTON — Rick Porcello looked like someone who wanted to salvage his season Friday night.
There’s only so much Porcello can do over the final three months to prevent his first season with the Boston Red Sox from being considered a massive disappointment. At this point, he’s in too deep. There’s something to be gained from ending 2015 with a solid second half, though. And Porcello finally appears to be trending upward after a disastrous stretch.
“The last three (starts) I think he’s clearly moving in the right direction, whether it’s coincidental with the return of (catcher) Ryan (Hanigan) or just the fact that he feels he’s able to go to a spot in the strike zone to get a strike when needed and not make mistakes over the middle of the plate,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday after Boston snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 2-1, walk-off win over the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park. “That’s been clearly the case in the last three starts. I think the added velocity and action to his sinker is just a matter of more relaxation on the mound.”
Porcello allowed only one run on five hits over seven innings. He struck out six and didn’t walk anyone. It marked the first time he lasted at least seven innings since June 3 (a span of seven starts) and the first time he recorded at least six strikeouts since May 16 (a span of 10 starts).
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing in his last three starts. He labored through five innings his last time out against the Los Angeles Angels despite allowing just three runs (two earned). But the three-start stretch certainly represents a notable improvement over most of his season. His ERA, which sat at 6.08 following a seven-run yield over two innings July 1, is down to 5.51. Baby steps, baby steps.
“Just getting back to being myself, attacking guys with my fastball and executing pitches. That’s the biggest thing,” Porcello said. “The ups and downs have been the result of poor execution.”
Porcello executed Friday despite not factoring into the decision. His fastball was crisp and he remained in control even when the Tigers threatened. Porcello’s biggest flaw this season has been his propensity for crumbling seemingly out of nowhere. And he instead rose to the occasion against his former team, inducing a key double play in the fourth inning and retiring 11 of the final 12 hitters he faced.
“I thought (Friday) from the fourth inning on, Rick’s fastball was one of the better ones he’s had on the entire year,” Farrell said. “He was really good with his extension. I thought it really showed up with some swing and miss to his changeup. He was down in the strike zone, got a key ground ball double play in the fourth inning. He was very good.”
Porcello, who owns a 2.50 ERA (five earned runs over 18 innings) in his last three starts, has a long way to go before one can definitively say he’s finally found his way. There are reasons for optimism, though.
It’s better late than never, especially since he’s expected to be a key contributor in the Red Sox’s rotation for another four seasons beyond 2015.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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