Despite Boston Red Sox starter Rick Porcello picking up his 10th loss of the season on Wednesday night, allow me to be the voice of reason and tell you why everything is going to be alright. First, let me remind you that we are talking about the reigning, defending American League Cy Young Award winner that was 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA over 223 innings a season ago. That’s a far cry from his 4-10 record with a 5.16 ERA over his 17 starts in 2017, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Everyone that has chimed in on the anti-Porcello campaign in 2015 has resurfaced out of the darkness to belittle all that the right-hander accomplished last season. Now let me be the first to admit, there is no denying that Porcello has been roughed up far too often this season. He’s been leaving his sinker up in the zone far too often, and when he does, he is getting hit hard. The four-seam fastball hasn’t had the same life on it as last season and the breaking ball just has not been as crisp as we are used to seeing. Despite his poor performance, Boston is still in first place and with no doubt some extra work in the film room with Brian Bannister and Carl Willis, Porcello has reared back to his former self over his last two outings.
Porcello picked up a victory over the Los Angeles Angels last Friday night on eight hits and a walk while striking out eight over 6.1 innings in the 9-4 win. Porcello snapped a four-game losing streak with his 10th quality start of the season and pounded the zone with 73 strikes over 102 pitches. The biggest reason for his success was avoiding the home run ball that has come back to bite him too often this season. Porcello took the loss on Wednesday night against the Twins allowing four runs over six innings while striking out six and was looking sharp until he surrendered a two-run homer to Max Kepler in the 6th inning that spelled doom for the Boston right-hander.
That said, Porcello has looked more like his usual self keeping the ball down in the zone and inside the ballpark over his last two starts. While it is a small sample size and he has allowed the most hits in all of baseball, it is a sign he is starting to turn a corner. The hard work and resiliency the veteran has shown to return to form is starting to show itself with the results he has been getting on the mound. There is no doubt in my mind that Porcello will continue to revert back to his true semblance and paired with some run support from the Boston offense, the victories will start to stack up for Rick.
As Jared Carrabis of Barstool Sports pointed out in his column, opponents are hitting .237 with a .647 OPS when Porcello has thrown a pitch in the lower third of the strike zone, signaling just how important it is for the sinker ball to be on point and pounding the bottom of the zone.
Now, I am far too familiar with the nature of Boston sports and just how nasty and vile it can get when a player, executive or coach isn’t performing to expectations, but in this instance a lot of the hate directed in Porcello’s direction is unwarranted. The guy is coming off a career year in which he took home the Cy Young Award for Pete’s Sake, hasn’t he carved out a buffer until the hate and negativity can start spilling his direction? Apparently not, but I encourage Red Sox fans to harness their anger and direct it at a player more deserving such as Pablo Sandoval. I digress, but no matter if you love him or hate him, you acknowledge that Rick Porcello will be critical in Boston’s success going forward if they want to not only capture the division crown, but challenge for a World Series title this season.
I am just an advocate, but one that has stood behind Porcello since the day Ben Cherington acquired him from Detroit, extended him for $82.5 million, struggled mightily in 2015 and took home the Cy Young in 2016. There is no reason for my faith in Porcello to waiver now and I guarantee all of the Porcello pessimists will be eating their words come October when he starts and wins a playoff game. Porcello’s next start comes Monday against Texas, a team he beat at home last season on thee 4th of July by the way.
Rick Porcello will be just fine despite his first-half struggles, I fully expect him to keep the trend of pitching like himself and help Boston pull away with the American League East.
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