Porcello's redemption leads Tigers to series win
Righty deals seven strong innings against Angels in series finale
DETROIT -- A year to the day after the Angels knocked out Rick Porcello with a nine-run first inning, he finally got his revenge with one run over seven.
He insists, though, that Sunday's 2-1 Tigers win wasn't about payback, just like it wasn't about flashbacks when he was staring at another potential big inning, with runners on second and third and a run in on three two-out singles.
"I didn't think about it," he said. "I think I'm a different pitcher now than when they got to me. Nine runs in one inning, it's one of those days where you just kind of don't even remember that. I know I'm better than that, so I just went out here and tried to give us a chance to win today. …
"The one thing special about it is we got a win and it's my third start of the season. That's it. What they did to me last year, that's over with and done. We're in a new year, and my focus is beating them today, not worrying about what happened in the past."
It's far enough in the past that he was able to joke about it. When a reporter asked him if he was aware of it, he joked that he had completely forgotten about it.
Likewise, when catcher Alex Avila was asked if there was a different game plan, he said half-joking that they actually got to use the game plan this time.
"I think the difference was, obviously, he got out of the first inning," Avila said, "so you're able to try to execute the game plan."
For one batter, at least, that possibility looked shaky on Sunday.
The Angels roughed up Porcello twice in as many meetings last year, scoring nine first-inning runs last April 20 in Anaheim and five fifth-inning runs June 25 in Detroit. The damage in the earlier matchup was mainly a combination of infield singles and ground balls up the middle until Mike Trout hit a hanging curveball for a grand slam.
When Porcello fired four fastballs past Trout for a first-inning strikeout, he seemed to be past it. Albert Pujols' line drive to left, however, started a rally that included Ian Stewart's bunt single against the shift and Howie Kendrick's single through the right side for an early run.
David Freese wasn't part of last year's onslaught; he was a St. Louis Cardinal last year. But he had a chance to recreate it with runners at second and third and Porcello searching for an out. After peppering him with inside fastballs, however, Porcello got him with a secondary pitch, a slider outside that Freese rolled over for a groundout to third.
He didn't get out of sorts with runners on, something that happened to him the last couple years. With that, Porcello could settle down.
"Last year's game was just a bizarre first inning," Avila said. "There were a lot of infield broken-bat hits, something that I had never seen, a bizarre inning. In a situation like that, you're trying to figure out something to do. What you're doing is working, but you're not getting the result.
"We didn't go into today thinking about last year. I don't think that ever came up. We just attacked them how we tried to play them."
Add in ex-Tiger Brennan Boesch's double down the right-field line in the second inning, and four of the first eight Angels hitters had base hits off Porcello. He retired 15 of the final 17 hitters he faced from there, nine on groundouts, allowing only another Kendrick single leading off the fourth and a Trout walk leading off the sixth. Both were erased on the bases -- Kendrick caught stealing, Trout on a Pujols double play.
It was a classic Porcello style of performance, quick outs included. Just two of his outs escaped the infield, and the only extra-base hit was Boesch's ball that kept just inside first base.
"When he commands his fastball, he's as good as anybody," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "He did today. When you have a guy like that on the mound, you always have to be ready on defense. He induces a lot of ground balls."
At the same time, Porcello said, he gave them different looks, changing his style to keep them from sitting on pitches.
"I really threw everything to righties and lefties today," mixing the curveball, changeup. That's part of keeping them off balance and not just feeding them fastballs all night and letting them get their timing down."
Angels lefty Hector Santiago did his part to keep up, allowing only two hits over his 5 2/3 innings. If five walks didn't sufficiently hurt his case, though, four Angels errors did. Three of them came on one play to allow Ian Kinsler to score the tying run from first base on a first-inning walk.
Kinsler took off on a full-count pitch to Miguel Cabrera, a pitch that was close enough for Hank Conger to throw to second, possibly anticipating a strikeout. The throw sailed into center field, sending Kinsler to third before Trout's errant throw and Santiago's wayward relay allowed him to score.
Santiago (0-3) stranded three runners in scoring position from there, ending each of the next four innings with strikeouts, before Austin Jackson's two-out walk in the fifth chased Santiago at 119 pitches.
Anticipating another stolen-base attempt, the Angels tried a pitchout on Jackson. He wasn't going, but he was far enough off the bag for Conger to throw to first. The throw went wide, moving Jackson to second base ahead of Nick Castellanos' RBI single to center.
Porcello (2-1) allowed a run on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Al Alburquerque stranded the tying run at second base in the eighth by retiring Trout, then Joe Nathan worked the ninth for his third save.
After an Angels outburst in Friday night's series opener, the Tigers won back-to-back games on the strength of back-to-back starting pitchers delivering seven innings of one-run ball. For Max Scherzer on Saturday, it was expected. For Porcello, given the history, it was another story.