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Mike Shalin's Working Press: It looks like a good year for Porcello

By MIKE SHALIN
April 15. 2018 3:57AM
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) throws a pitch to Tampa Bay Rays first baseman C.J. Cron (44) in the first inning at Fenway Park April 7, 2018. (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)



If you believe in track records, this should be a good year for Rick Porcello.

So far, the track record is holding up.

Since arriving in Boston, Porcello has gone 9-15, won 22 games and a Cy Young Award and then gone 11-17.

So, this year should be a good one, right?

But there's more to this than just the way the guy pitches: run support.

Two years ago, when Porcello went 22-4, Porcello received more run support than any pitcher in the major leagues. Last year, not so much.

If you're wondering what that has meant to Porcello, Thursday night he won again and the Red Sox have won 23 straight games where the hitters gave Porcello three-plus runs. In his last 34 starts with at least three runs of support, he is 29-0 with a 3.13 ERA.

This year, his buddies have given him 16 runs in three starts and he's 3-0. He is now 25-4 in the two good years, 20-32 in the two bad ones. Oh, and he has won five straight starts dating to last season.

And there were these additional Porcello goodies from Thursday night's Red Sox post-game notes:

. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, his deepest into a game without allowing a hit ... It was Porcello's third time in 277 career starts holding his opponent hitless through the fifth inning (5 innings on May 21, 2011 at Pittsburgh, 5 1/3 on Sept. 3, 2016 at Oakland).

. It was his second time this season with five or more consecutive hitless innings ... He retired 17 straight Rays from the second inning through the seventh on April 7 ... Overall, 11 of his last 13 innings have been hitless.

. It was his first career start with seven or more innings pitched, no walks, and two or fewer hits ... His last scoreless start with seven or more innings and two or fewer hits came on May 22, 2011 with Detroit at Pittsburgh.

. He's the seventh Red Sox pitcher since 1908 to go seven or more innings with no walks and no more than two hits in a start against the Yankees (the last was Frank Castillo on Aug. 31, 2001 at Fenway) ...The last Red Sox pitcher with seven or more scoreless innings, no walks, and two or fewer hits against any team was Jon Lester on May 10, 2013 against Toronto.

. He's tied for the major-league lead with three wins...It was the second time he has won his first three starts of a season (also won the first five starts of his AL Cy Young 2016 season)...His five-game winning streak is his longest since Aug. 9-Sept. 9, 2016 (six).

. He lowered his season ERA to 1.83 (4 earned runs in 19 2/3 innings)... He's allowed just 14 hits and 1 walk (a 0.76 WHIP).

. He has not issued a walk in his last 16 2/3 innings pitched ... Since his 2009 debut, he leads the AL with 67 starts with no walks.

Early Cora thoughts

We like the fact that Alex Cora admitting making a mistake by not getting J.D. Martinez out for defense late in a game the other night.

We don't like Cora acting punk-like when dismissing Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin with gestures after the Wednesday night brawl.

To his credit, Cora, who is, after all, learning on the job, apologized for both acts. Well, sort of on Nevin.

"I'm going to be honest with you, we scored six runs (in the eighth inning) and we were so excited about it, the manager missed that one," he said of the Martinez gaffe, adding he believes in honesty."

Fessing up, he said, "Because I did (mess up)! Why lie? It happens. Everybody saw it. I ask our guys to be genuine, transparent, and responsible. If I'm asking them to be that way, well I'd better be that way. Because if I say something else, they know I'm not telling the truth."

As far as the Nevin thing, Cora was upset the coach gestured in his direction. "I don't know if he was screaming specifically at me. I took exception," Cora said. "I don't want to say I overreacted, but that's not me. I think for 10 games or whatever I've managed, you have seen me very calm over there. There's something about chain of command. If we're going to let everybody be screaming in situations like that, it wasn't a good situation and it can be worse."

Nevin said he said something to Cora and the Boston coaches about what they had done throwing at Tyler Austin and that there was no response from Cora until the Sox manager was in the dugout.

File it under: just another thing to watch from the rivalry.

Cora and the Mets' Mickey Calloway became the third and fourth managers to begin managerial careers by going 9-1 in their first 10 games. Pat Moran did it with the 1915 Phillies and some guy named Morgan did it in 1988.

Morgan Magic!

Former Red Sox skipper Joe Morgan wasn't above admitting mistakes to the media and, like it or not, that buys you more leeway with the press. There was the night in Chicago when he admitted "I thought Shawn Hillegas was a lefty" when he started righty batter Rick Cerone instead of his left-handed platoon partner, Rich Gedman. Naturally, Cerone hit two homers.

Ohtani mania

The Angels' Shohei Ohtani is expected to pitch today in Kansas City, meaning he won't face the Red Sox when they're in Anaheim this week. (USA TODAY Sports)

In 1981 there was Fernando-mania when Fernando Valenzuela took the game by storm. Now it's Shohei Ohtani, doing his Babe Ruth thing while wiping out a bad spring training with a wondrous start.

With Ohtani pitching once a week, on Sundays, the Red Sox will miss Ohtani the pitcher in Anaheim this week but will get Ohtani the hitter, likely when Porcello pitches Wednesday night.

Through Thursday, Ohtani was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA (with 18 Ks in 13 innings) in three starts as a pitcher and was batting .367 with three homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.191 OPS in 30 at-bats as a hitter. Through his translator, he said "I would like to play more," earlier this week.

I have a feeling that's going to happen. He's already started moving up the Angels lineup - and the other LA was 12-3 through Friday

Celtics begin

With the Bruins already two games into their playoffs, the Celtics get theirs going Sunday afternoon and have to deal with the Greek Freak and his inconsistent Milwaukee Bucks.

"It's not on one person to guard Giannis (Antetokounmpo) ... we have to throw a lot of different bodies at him," coach Brad Stevens said the other day.

The teams split four games during the regular season, with The Freak averaging 33.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

Now, it's playoff time and the short-handed Celtics are ready.

"There's been a chip on our shoulder since (Gordon) Hayward went down," says Terry Rozier, now a starter with Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart out.

"It sucks to see your brothers go down - Smart, (Daniel) Theis, Kyrie, Hayward - but, like I said, it's not over. It's not going to be an easy road for our opponents. They still have to go through us. We're ready."

If they survive, the Celtics should get Smart back late this month.

Savard speaks

Former Bruin Marc Savard, still recovering from the concussions that ended his hockey career, spoke on WEEI Thursday.

"Oh, I'm the best I've ever been in a long time," Savard said. "So that's kind of why you're seeing me back out and about. Just kind of took some time away from everything and just kind of healed.

"I've got a great family around me, my wife and my kids, my agents and everybody and my buddies. Just kind of really took it day by day and when I felt comfortable again kind of made my way back out into the public eye, so I'm feeling really good right now. The best I've been in a long, long time."

He also tweeted Nazem Kadri's stupid hit on Tommy Wingels on Thursday night was worth "2 games for fun." Kadri was suspended for three.

Dez Bryant?

Every time a big name, especially a controversial big name, becomes available, speculation begins that the Patriots will be there to sign the guy. The latest is Dez Bryant, released by the Cowboys. Don't EVER rule out Bill Belichick for something like this.

Bryant likes a suggestion made by a media member that he stay in the NFC East so he can face the Cowboys twice each season.

The Colin Kaepernick saga continues. He was slated for a workout for the Seahawks but that was postponed because Kaepernick would not guarantee not kneeling for the anthem.

Speaking of QBs, old pal Mark Sanchez has been suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season for a drug violation.

Oh, and Tom Brady seems to be pushing Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson as his successor, calling the athletic Jackson "a beast" on Instagram.

Belichick on drafting a quarterback? Spoiler alert: this answer is going to shock you: "We'll do what's best for the football team. We'll look at our opportunities and do what's best."

It's here

Happy to say "The Hometown Team," photographer Steve Babineau's four decades of shooting the Red Sox and Fenway Park - with yours truly supplying the words and interviews around the pictures - is in bookstores. It is also available on Amazon. We will be signing books at the Manchester Barnes & Noble on May 26 from 1-3 p.m. so stop by and say hi.

And while you're picking up our book, grab my pal Sean McAdam's "Boston: America's Best Sports Town."

McAdam, who now covers the Red Sox for the Boston Sports Journal website, reminded me the other day that former Bruins coach and legendary Canadian broadcaster Don Cherry, in the foreword of his first book, wrote, "Yesterday I couldn't spell author, today I are one."

The surprising Mets lost both catchers in a matter of hours - Travis d'Arnaud for the season. Veteran Jose Lobaton came up from Triple-A and tripled in his first at-bat as the Mets won their ninth in a row and go to 11-1 Friday night, the best start in franchise history. . Drew Pomeranz made what may well be his final rehab start Friday night and seems to be in line to make his next start next week. . Through Friday, the Dodgers, Nationals and Cubs, three NL favorites, were 4-8, 6-8 and 6-7. . Toronto's Roberto Osuna, 23, became the youngest pitcher ever to 100 saves. . Brady may miss the first day of voluntary workouts but with good reason - he's in Qatar doing work for his Best Buddies charity. . Finally, the already talent-rich Astros traded for Gerrit Cole for even more pitching depth and the righty joins Nolan Ryan (1973) as the only pitchers ever with 11-plus Ks in their first three starts of a season.

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


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