ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Boston Red Sox had great expectations for Rick Porcello in 2017. The Los Angeles Angels had no expectations for Parker Bridwell, who as of late April was employed by the Baltimore Orioles.
Such are the vagaries of baseball.
Porcello was coming off a 22-4 season that won him the American League Cy Young Award, complete with a 3.15 ERA and league-best strikeout-walk ratio of 5.91. Opponents averaged 7.8 hits per nine innings against the veteran right-hander.
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In 2017, Porcello comes into the finale of the series with the Angels on Sunday with a 4-12 record and 4.60 ERA while allowing 11.2 hits per nine innings. He still has 13 quality starts in 20 outings, and there’s no question his struggles can be connected to Boston’s defense (12 of the runs he has allowed are unearned) and a lack of offense when he’s on the mound.
In 10 of his last 17 starts, the Red Sox have scored two runs or fewer, including being shut out five times.
“The real challenge is the ability to stay at the major league level,” Porcello told reporters last month. “I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘It is a game of adjustments.’ That’s what makes it so difficult. Everyone is constantly adjusting to a better way to try and beat you. Your opponents are constantly trying to exploit your weaknesses, so it’s a daily battle.
“Right now, it’s a mix. I’ll locate well on one batter, and the next batter I’m leaving stuff over the middle of the plate. I’ve got to be more consistent, for sure.”
Porcello defeated the Angels in his only start against them this season and is 6-6 with a 6.11 ERA in 15 career starts versus Los Angeles.
“He’s in a stretch when he’s making a mistake, or a mislocated pitch,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “He’s a little snakebit right now, to be honest.”
The Red Sox (55-44) still lead the AL East with the second-best record in the AL. There’s the rest of July and two more months of baseball left for Porcello to pitch back to 2016, and maybe get some run support.
Bridwell (3-1, 3.18 ERA) was anonymous to everyone in Anaheim. He was purchased from the Orioles in April and recalled for an emergency start on May 30, going six innings while allowing six hits and three runs in a win.
He returned in June and has won a spot in the rotation. He has pitched six-plus innings in his last four starts, allowed only four runs in three of them, and had a career-high eight strikeouts in his last outing. One of those wins was a 4-2 decision in Boston last month.
“I feel I’m getting more consistent,” said Bridwell, who made two appearances for the Orioles last season. “I’m more confident each time I pitch. I’d like to think this is the kind of game (eight strikeouts, six innings, two runs). I’m capable of every time.”
The Angels are 6-1 in his seven starts.
“The big thing for any young pitcher is the ability to repeat his stuff every outing,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “For a guy we didn’t know much about, he’s really made an impact.”