Porcello tosses second straight complete-game shutout

DETROIT — It’s hard to believe that just two years ago Rick Porcello was battling with rookie Drew Smyly for the Tigers’ fifth starter job.

Now Porcello, 25, has gone from squeaking into the rotation to "our most consistent pitcher this year," according to Torii Hunter.

Hunter said he sensed in spring training that Porcello was on the verge of doing great things.

On Tuesday night, Porcello threw his second straight complete-game shutout, holding down the Oakland Athletics, 3-0. In his last start, Porcello shut out the Texas Rangers, 6-0.

Porcello is now 11-4 with a 3.12 ERA. 

"I felt very confident coming into this year," Porcello said. "I felt like last year I made some nice strides and I felt like there was a couple things that I could get better at, not walking as many guys and pitching out of jams a little bit more effectively than I had in the past.

"I just came into the season trying to get better, trying to continue those positive steps forward that I made last year and it’s working well so far."

He hasn’t even touched the ceiling yet, he’s not even close.

Torii Hunter

Porcello is the first Tigers pitcher with back-to-back, complete-game shutouts since Jack Morris had three straight from July 9-18, 1986, almost a year and a half before Porcello was born.

"It’s obviously an honor," Porcello said. "I’ve seen his numbers over his career and I did that for two games and he did it for about 20 years. It was nice being mentioned in the same sentence with him but I’ve got a long way to go before I can consider myself in that category."

Another category in which Porcello is likely to join Morris is as an All-Star. 

Morris made five All-Star teams and with the way Porcello has pitched of late, he could be in line for his first All-Star appearance.

"It’s a huge honor to play in the All-Star Game and it’s the best players every year around the league that get to play during the All-Star break," Porcello said. "Obviously, I’d be extremely fortunate to get that opportunity and I’d be humbled by it."

Porcello allowed just four hits and threw 95 pitches against the A’s, the team with the best record in baseball at 51-32.

Oddly, Porcello did not walk a batter or strike anyone out, the first major-league pitcher to accomplish that since Baltimore’s Jeff Ballard did so on Aug. 21, 1989.

"I’m not gonna lie, I was hoping I could record at least one strikeout," Porcello said. "It felt good. I had a good sinker going. Even the ones that I left up in the zone, I was able to get some ground balls so it worked out well."

Porcello is the fourth Tigers pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout without a walk or strikeout. Ed Wells, George Uhle and Dizzy Trout are the others.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Porcello had a good secondary pitches to go along with his sinker.

"Curveball was good, but I thought his change-up was exceptional," Ausmus said. "Got a lot of pop-ups on his change-up. Got guys out in front, a couple of roll-overs. You see that many balls on the ground, you know Rick’s keeping his sinker down."

Porcello had 17 ground-ball outs to seven fly-outs.

"He threw a ton of strikes, got a ton of groundballs, did a good job," A’s outfielder Brandon Moss said. "We’re usually a patient team, but the guy’s out there throwing first-pitch strikes to everybody, he’s rarely behind. It gets to a point you can’t keep allowing him to get ahead of you, you have to swing the bat."

Porcello can get all the ground balls he wants but if his teammates can’t take those and make them into outs, it’s useless.

"Ian (Kinsler) has been huge for me at second base," Porcello said. "He’s a veteran and he knows where to position himself and where to play guys. There’s a lot of balls that get hit over there this year that I think in my mind are hits and he’s right there.

"Everybody in the infield has been fantastic. Miggy’s one of the best defensive first basemen now in the league and (Eugenio) Suarez and (Nick) Castellanos have been doing a really nice job on the left side of the infield. It’s been a huge plus for me." 

Porcello now has 72 wins in his first 168 career games. Only Denny McLain (89 wins), Justin Verlander (84), Dan Petry (75) and Tommy Bridges (74) have more wins in their first 168 games with the Tigers.

"He’s what, 25-26 and this guy’s doing this?" Hunter said. "He’s doing a great job and he’s got a lot of room to grow. That’s what’s scary. He hasn’t even touched the ceiling yet, he’s not even close."