On Jackie Robinson day, the Tigers defeated the White Sox 5-2, although it was anything but a comfortable victory. The Cardiac Cats had plenty of opportunities to put the game out of reach, but could not do so. Therefore, in the bottom of the 9th inning, the White Sox had two at bats with the tying run at the plate, with the bat in the hands of Kosuke Fukudome and young slugger Dayan Viciedo, who had already hit a HR earlier in the game. Closer Jose Valverde wriggled out of the inning by the skin of his teeth, and preserved the win for starter Rick Porcello, the first win for any Tiger stater this season.
The Tigers had a chance to blow the game open in the 6th inning, after knocking out Sox highly touted left handed pitching prospect Chris Sale. They were up 3-0, with the bases loaded and nobody out. Subsequently, Brennan Boesch popped out, Gerald Laird flew out, after hitting his first home run of the season earlier in the game, and Austin Jackson, who has been sizzling to start the season, grounded out to second. They did, however, get two insurance runs in the top of the 9th inning, on RBI singles from Ramon Santiago and Prince Fielder.
This was one of Porcello’s best performances of his career, reminiscent of his game against the Pirates last year, going 7.2 IP surrendering 5 hits, one run, 0 BB and 4 K’s. Rick was cruising until he gave up three hard hit balls in a row to Fukudome, Escobar, and Viciedo. He was lifted in favor of Joaquin Benoit, who surrendered a walk, before striking out Brent Morel to end the inning.
While he has only had two starts, this version of Rick Porcello is definitely one that Tigers fans can live with. He has thrown 14.2 innings, given up 12 hits, 3 runs, only walked one batter, and struck out 8. When I discussed Porcello’s last start, I mentioned that his fastball velocity diminished the deeper that he went into the game. Today, however, this was not the case:
Stated above, his velocity stuck with him until he was pulled from the game. While it would have been nice to see Rick finish the 8th inning, this start was definitely a continued step in the right direction. While he only generated 4 swings and misses, he had White Sox hitters off balance all day, inducing 11 ground ball outs, most of them very routine. Porcello also mixed his pitches extremely well, throwing 19 sliders and 13 change ups, and 22 of those 32 pitches ended up as strikes. Even though the slider didn’t generate any swings and misses, it added an element to Porcello’s repertoire that was otherwise lacking. Also, in 99 pitches, the right hander tossed 70 strikes, indicative of his impeccable command on the day.
Another encouraging sign from Porcello is that he has been better against lefties so far this season, only surrendering 6 hits in 29 at bats, and just one for extra bases. This was an area where Rick struggled mightily last season, as lefties sported a .321 average and .857 OPS against him with 14 HR, compared to a .650 OPS and only 4 HR allowed vs. right handers. Monitoring Porcello’s success against lefties is an important component to his overall success this season.
With the win, the Tigers go to 6-3 on the season, and travel to Kansas City tomorrow to face the Royals. The Royals’ pitching was absolutely clobbered by Cleveland this weekend, allowing 37 runs over a three game stretch. It won’t get any easier for them, as young left hander Danny Duffy faces MVP Justin Verlander tomorrow.