ST. PETERSBURG — It might have come too late, but it seems that Rick Porcello has found something that can help him finish a bad season on a high note.
After an encouraging outing in last week’s win against the Phillies, Porcello built on it with his best start in three months in the Red Sox’ 5-4 loss to the Rays on Friday night. The righty submitted six shutout innings in which he gave up just three hits and no walks while striking out six.
Better late than never?
It’s been a maddening season for the 2017 Cy Young Award winner, who entered Friday with the worst ERA in baseball among qualified pitchers. But in the midst of all the struggles and frustration, he’s continued to work to find the answers. Finally, it seems, some results are coming, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I’ve been saying all along, regardless of the results, between starts he’s always searching for something, trying to get better,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “His last two, he’s been very solid. … He’s been working hard at it, and regardless of the position we’re in. and how many games we have left, he’s still trying to improve. You appreciate that as a manager.”
The difference for Porcello the last two, Cora said, has been fastball command, and particular on his two-seamer, which he’s been using more. In his victory over the Phillies last week, he threw his sinker the most he had since an outing against the A’s in April. On Friday, he used it again more than any other pitch.
In Philly last week, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler noticed, and even mentioned it to Cora.
“(Kapler) said, ‘That was a different pitcher than what we saw in Boston,’” Cora said.
“It’s a game of adjustments.”
Cora noted that Porcello has been working ahead in the count a lot more, too, which has been huge. On Friday, he rarely ran into trouble. He put runners on first and third with no outs in the third, but was able to escape it unscathed.
“My last two, I’ve kind of gone back to some of the things I do and do well,” Porcello said. “So I’m going to keep building off it. We’re having a little bit of success right now, so keep going.”
Porcello has one more start left in his season — Wednesday at Texas — and another good start could go a long way for his confidence as he goes into the offseason and his impending free agency.
“I definitely would love to go out there and have a good one in my last one,” Porcello said. “It doesn’t change what’s happened this year, but it would be nice to finish on a good note.”