BOSTON — If we told you exactly one year ago that Rick Porcello would enter the 2016 All-Star break as one of three pitchers in Major League Baseball yet to lose a home game, you might have called us crazy.
After all, the Red Sox right-hander had a pretty forgettable start to his tenure in Boston, taking a 5-9 record and 5.90 ERA into the 2015 All-Star break.
Fast forward to Saturday, where Porcello allowed just one run over seven innings at Fenway Park to lead the Sox to a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in their second-to-last game before MLB’s mid-season hiatus.
The victory improved Porcello to 11-2 on the season and 8-0 at home, as he joins Chris Tillman and Stephen Strasburg as the only pitchers in baseball who haven’t lost any of their first nine home starts.
“There’s no question he feels comfortable on the mound here (at Fenway Park),” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Porcello. “His sinker works well here. And more than anything, his walk rate is at a career low, and he’s doing an outstanding job of limiting the overall baserunners.”
Porcello allowed a solo homer to Rays shortstop Brad Miller in the first inning but otherwise breezed through Tampa’s lineup, allowing just six hits and pitching six consecutive scoreless innings to close his outing.
He issued only one walk while striking out five and needed just 94 pitches to make it through seven innings. The 27-year-old veteran has had exceptional command at home, issuing just eight walks through nine starts at Fenway while racking up 49 strikeouts.
“The biggest thing for me this year is the consistent action and release point to his two-seamer,” Farrell said. “That’s such a trademark pitch for him. Last year, I think there was an uptick in velocity, which might have worked against him with being able to repeat the two-seamer as much.
“But even when he’s gotten into some hitter counts, he’s got some late life to move the ball off the bat head and record outs.”
There are plenty of question marks in the Red Sox’s starting rotation, but Porcello has made sure he’s not one of them by being one of Boston’s most consistent pitchers. He has pitched at least five innings in all 18 of his starts this season, allowing three runs or fewer in 13 of those outings.
“That’s what our job is: to be consistent and give us a chance to win every time out,” Porcello said after the game. “I take pride in doing my job.”
If Porcello keeps pitching well, he’ll also make Dave Dombrowski’s job easier. The Red Sox’s president of baseball operations has been very open in stating the team needs rotation help, but if ace David Price can turn things around in the second half and knuckleballer Steven Wright stays on track, Dombrowski can approach the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline knowing he has three solid starters at the top of his rotation.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images