This will be a different year for Rick Porcello, and one need look no further than the first inning Wednesday night to see why.
The Boston Red Sox ace was gifted a 1-0 lead against the Los Angeles Angels, but L.A. loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the first, putting Porcello on the ropes early.
Or so it seemed.
Seemingly unfazed by his predicament, Porcello struck out Kole Calhoun and Zack Cozart to end the frame unscathed. The Angels wouldn’t threaten Porcello again.
The 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner struggled mightily in 2017. He gave up a major league-leading 38 home runs last season while struggling to command his sinker and failed to record shut down innings.
But through four starts in 2018, Porcello has looked like the ace who led the Red Sox’s rotation two seasons ago.
After Boston’s 9-0 win Wednesday, Porcello improved to 4-0 on the year with a 1.40 ERA and a 23:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Oh, and he has yet to allow a home run.
Porcello’s command has made all the difference early on this season. The right-hander had difficulty locating his sinker last year which led to many balls finding the middle of the plate, and not coincidentally, the outfield seats. He also struggled with walks last year, administering 48 base on balls, the most since his rookie season.
Porcello has solved that issue so far, though. He has only walked one batter in 25 1/3 innings and hasn’t issued a walk in his last three starts. In fact, he’s hit more batters (two) than he’s walked.
The right has been even more dominant through the first four starts of 2018 (4-0, 25.2 IP, 23 K, 1 BB, 1.40 ERA) then he was in the first four starts of his Cy Young-winning season (4-0, 25.2 IP, 30 K, 5 BB, 3.51 ERA), meaning 2018 could be a special season for Porcello.
Here are more notes from Red Sox-Angels:
— With Rafael Devers’ grand slam in the third inning Wednesday night, the Sox now have hit four grand slams in 17 games. This comes after the club failed to hit a slam all of last season.
— Red Sox starters now have a 1.91 ERA this season. Boston’s starters have allowed one run or fewer in 13 of the club’s 17 games this season.
— Boston has won its sixth straight series to begin the 2018 season.
— Sixty-five percent of Mitch Moreland’s batted balls have been hard hit so far, which is second behind Chicago White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada. J.D. Martinez ranks third.
— Red Sox catchers have struggled so far this season, slashing .212/.257./.242.
— Boston joined the 2003 San Francisco Giants as the only teams since 2000 to start a season 15-2. And the Sox became the second team since 1900 to start a season 15-2 with a first-year manager.
— The Sox are averaging 8.4 runs per game over their last 10 games.
Thumbnail photo via Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports Images