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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Porcello pitching just well enough to lose

September 12. 2017 12:35AM
Boston starter Rick Porcello delivers a pitch during the first inning of Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

THE FIRST SUNDAY of the NFL season, played without the Patriots, drew a big yawn from this angle, so let’s talk a little baseball.

And Rick Porcello.

Sunday at Fenway, Porcello again pitched well enough to lose, falling to 9-17 one year after going 22-4 and winning the Cy Young Award. On paper, he still has three starts left and in theory could lose 20. And if that happens, and if David Price comes back as a starter, Porcello may well be on the outside looking in come playoff time.

At one point, that might have seemed inconceivable. Now? Not so much.

Doug Fister, the only pitcher on the staff with a postseason victory as a starter — he is 4-1 as a postseason starter — has pitched his way into the postseason rotation. Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz are set at 1-2 (yes, even if it’s the Indians). Then it should be Fister, leaving the rest of the spots to Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Porcello.

Now, if Porcello turns it around and pitches well in his last three starts, or even his last two, he would bump Rodriguez. But what if management plans to have Price start and not relieve? Do the math.

How do you explain what happened to Porcello? Well, he WAS 9-15 in 2015. Then, he got 6.67 runs per game — more than any other pitcher, in winning 22 last year. The run support has been way down this year — 4.27 runs per start. Sunday was the latest example, with the Sox scoring one run, and he hasn’t pitched as well.

Big series

Buckle up, Red Sox fans, the Oakland A’s are coming to town.

The Oakland A’s?

Big deal, right?

Well, the last-place A’s have won five in a row and just swept the Astros, scoring 41 runs.

They also won three out of four from the Red Sox in Oakland in May.

Rodriguez, who hasn’t won since May 26 — you read that right — makes his 12th try at his fifth win of the year tonight.

Khris Davis came into Sunday’s game tied with Aaron Judge for the league lead in homers with 39 — before Judge hit two in Texas.

Wild weekend

Yes, they played college and pro football over the weekend, but the MLB weekend couldn’t have been more interesting as some things were turned upside down.

As we said, the Astros lost four straight to the A’s, and in doing so surrendered the lead for the best record in the AL to the sizzling Indians. Cleveland’s 18th straight win Sunday night moved them into the top spot, and moved the Red Sox into a potential pairing with Houston in the ALDS — something that can’t upset Red Sox fans.

On July 22, the Indians trailed the Astros by 14 games for the top spot in the league.

The only downer for the Tribe over the weekend was losing talented rookie center-fielder Bradley Zimmer for the season with a broken left hand.

While the American League had some flip-flopping, look what’s going on in the NL.

The Dodgers, through Sunday, had been outscored 66-24 during a 10-game losing streak and had become the first team in baseball history to lose 15 of 16 the same season it WON 15 of 16. Suddenly, their spot atop the NL was in jeopardy. Starting play this week, the Nationals, who clinched the East Sunday, were four games behind the Dodgers.

“Just sitting back and saying ’We’re the best team in baseball’ isn’t the answer,” said Justin Turner. “Because regardless of what the record says, right now we’re the worst team in baseball.

“What we did three months ago doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Turner continued. “No one in the league is going to feel sorry for us. No one in this league is going to show up and be like ‘Oh, poor Dodgers.’ There are a bunch of sharks in the water. We’re bleeding a bit right now. I think teams are smelling the blood.”

In the Central, the Brewers trotted into Wrigley Field and swept three games from the Cubs by a combined 20-3 count. That moved the Brewers to within two games of the champs but don’t look now, but the Cardinals, given up for dead in August, were also just two games out. Both the Brewers and Cardinals were also three games out of a wild card spot.

But the Brewers, the latest to lose a pitcher running the bases, lost ace Jimmy Nelson (12-6, 3.49 ERA) for the season when he injured his shoulder diving back into first base.

Here and there

Boston College football fans are calling for coach Steve Addazio’s hide, with Notre Dame coming to the Heights Saturday. … Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield apologized for planting an OU flag at midfield (on the emblem) at Ohio Stadium after the Sooner beat the Buckeyes. … The Rays playing the Yankees at New York’s Citi Field unfair? Owner Stu Sternberg told Chris Russo Monday playing in New York had more to do with available hotel rooms than anything else. Sounds like the Rays will be able to host the Red Sox this weekend. … Mike Reiss of ESPN reports the Patriots will have a new synthetic turf in place for the next home game after concerns about footing in the opener and preseason games. … The Yankees scored 16 runs Sunday in Texas, one more “point” than the two New York City-area football teams combined for the same day. … LeGarrette Blount gained 46 yards on 14 carries in his Eagles debut, a win. … Finally, the Patriots have too many running backs and are listening to offers for Dion Lewis.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is

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