Porcello, Tigers edge sloppy Angels 2-1
DETROIT — One year ago, the Los Angeles Angels handed Rick Porcello the worst beating of his career.
It took 365 days, but Porcello decisively turned the tables Sunday, allowing one run over seven innings as the Tigers beat the Angels 2-1.
Porcello jokingly claimed not to remember what happened on April 20, 2013, but it was the type of disaster that no major-league pitcher will ever forget. Pitching in Anaheim, Porcello gave up nine runs and recorded only two outs in a 10-0 loss.
"I didn’t even think about that today," he said. "I think I’m a different pitcher than I was when they got to me. I mean, nine runs in the first inning is one of those days where you basically know you are better than that."
Things didn’t look much better for Porcello in the first inning this time. The Angels put together three straight singles to take a 1-0 lead, but he settled down in a hurry. He shut Los Angeles down on two hits in his final six innings, and Ian Krol and Joe Nathan both pitched a shutout inning of relief to finish off the victory.
"He’s very calm out there," Tiger manager Brad Ausmus said of Porcello, who’s in his sixth major-league season, making it easy to forget that he’s only 25. "He’s young but he’s not inexperienced, so he doesn’t get rattled."
Porcello didn’t get much help from his offense, but the Angels came to the rescue with an exploding-clown-car defense. Los Angeles committed four errors, leading to both Detroit runs, but the clear highlight was a three-error extravaganza that came right out of a Bad News Bears movie.
It happened in the first inning, as Los Angeles starter Hector Santiago was trying to put together a shutdown inning to protect the early lead. He retired Rajai Davis, but Ian Kinsler walked, then count went full on Miguel Cabrera.
As Kinsler broke for second, Santiago threw a 3-2 changeup that he was sure was good for strike three. Angels manager Mike Scioscia agreed with him, so did catcher Hank Conger. According to Santiago, even Cabrera thought he was gone.
"After the inning, as he was coming off the field, I asked him and he said the pitch was good," Santiago said, still shaking his head. "I had no doubt in my mind that it was strike three. It was right down the middle."
Conger — thinking he was going for an inning-ending strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play — fired to second a half-second before home-plate umpire Brian Knight called ball four. The throw would have been meaningless, except it sailed into center field, allowing Kinsler to sprint to third base.
That’s when the Angels really came unglued. With Cabrera still unbuckling his protective equipment at home plate, center fielder Mike Trout retrieved the ball. All he had to do was flip it back to either middle infielder, but he threw it over second baseman Howie Kendrick’s head. With Cabrera finally running and the ball trickling past the mound, Kinsler broke for the plate.
"I thought I should probably back up third base but then I saw the ball rolling through the infield, and I saw Kinsler heading home," said Santiago, who had only just finished slamming his arms down in disgust at the pitch being called ball four. "I grabbed it and tried to spin and throw home. But I couldn’t see Kinsler, so I rushed it. If I get the ball over the plate, we get him."
Instead, the ball sailed past Conger, who had to feel like he was the victim of some hidden-camera prank. Kinsler was safe at the plate and Cabrera ended up on second.
"I’ve gone from first to third on a bad throw before, but scoring? On a walk?" Kinsler said. "I’ve never done that before. When I got to third, Miggy was still taking his shin guard off and still ended up on second. I’ve never seen anything like that."
Ausmus, a veteran of 18 major-league seasons, was so baffled that after the game, he still didn’t know how the official scorer had ruled. Ron Kleinfelter, after consulting replays, ruled that Conger, Trout and Santiago all deserved throwing errors.
"Oh, they gave them three errors?" Ausmus asked during his post-game press conference. "I thought they only gave them two, and we were all sitting in the dugout trying to figure out who didn’t get one."
Neither team scored again until the bottom of the sixth, when Conger struck again. This time, with two out, he fired wildly to first in a misguided attempt to pick off Austin Jackson. Jackson moved to second on the play and scored when Nick Castellanos lined a single to center.
"We made a few too many mistakes out there," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Most of them on the same play."