Porcello wins third straight as Tigers beat White Sox, 6-2

BY foxsports • July 23, 2013

Guess which Detroit Tigers pitcher has won the most decisions in his last four starts?

It’s not Max Scherzer, the All-Star Game starter who is 14-1 for the season but 2-1 in his last four outings. Justin Verlander and Doug Fister also have won twice in their last four starts, and Anibal Sanchez has won once.

Rick Porcello, who pitched seven shutout innings in Tuesday night’s 6-2 win over the White Sox in Chicago, is the answer to that question. He’s 3-1 in his last four starts, posting a 2.08 ERA and a stingy 1.19 WHIP in those outings.

Porcello (7-6) looks like a strong possibility to win 10 games and join some very select company with more than two months remaining in the season. Hall of Famers Chief Bender and Bert Blyleven and 1985 Cy Young Award winner Dwight Gooden are the only pitchers to reach double-digits in wins in each of their first five seasons. Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley and Porcello have done it their first four years.

While Porcello, 24, has a long way to go for anyone to consider him a Cooperstown possibility, he has accomplished more than he gets credit for as the fifth starter in a stacked rotation.

Porcello has won 55 games – by far the most of any pitcher in the majors under 25 years old.

He faced only two batters above the minimum in the second through seventh innings, and three of the four singles he allowed were of the infield variety. Porcello struck out six in each of his last two starts, but had just one in this game. It didn’t matter as he kept the White Sox from squaring up on very few pitches.

“He kept these guys in the ballpark,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said on the night after Scherzer allowed a pair of solo homers at homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.

Porcello is doing that with regularity, allowing only one homer in his last five starts.

However, just one single in the right spot could’ve cost Porcello dearly in this one. He pitched out of a first-inning, bases-loaded jam.

Alex Rios had a two-out infield hit and stole second base before Porcello walked both Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko on full-count pitches. That brought a visit from Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones.

Porcello then got behind Jeff Keppinger with a 3-0 count, and disaster was knocking. But Porcello showed the calm of the young veteran that he is, slowing down the game and throwing a strike. Then he got Keppinger to hit a grounder to third baseman Don Kelly for a fielder’s choice play at second base to end the inning.

Porcello said his 12 off days between starts “was causing me to be off rhythm a bit,” but he recovered just in time to keep the White Sox off the scoreboard.

“That inning was pretty shaky,” Porcello told FOX Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson. “…But I battled through it. It could’ve been a lot worse.”

The White Sox only threatened one other time, getting runners on first and second with nobody out in the fifth. Porcello got Josh Phegley to hit into a double play started by Kelly and Alejandro De Aza to ground out to end that inning.

Porcello credited his defense – particularly the play of Kelly and rookie second baseman Hernan Perez, subbing for the injured Omar Infante.

Kelly, filling in for Miguel Cabrera (day-to-day with a hip injury), robbed Alex Rios of a hit with a diving play in the hole. Perez, who also had a triple and knocked in two runs, dove on a ball hit up the middle and threw out Keppinger from his knees.

And so Porcello won for the third straight start – something he hadn’t accomplished since winning five consecutive starts in July 2011.

“He pitched well and he was aggressive,” Leyland said.

Porcello threw only 93 pitches over seven innings, and that was the product of going after hitters and not nibbling at the strike zone.

Porcello said, “I had a good sinker going. I mixed in some changeups and curves, and had a good fastball going.”

He used all of his pitches effectively.

Porcello walked a season-high three batters, but had not pitched in 13 days because of his five-game suspension for hitting Tampa Bay Rays All-Star Ben Zobrist and the All-Star break.

Once he shrugged off the rust in the first inning, there was no stopping Porcello.