BOSTON -- For Rick Porcello, the reason he had a tough-luck loss instead of a standout outing was a middle-in fastball that Aaron Judge clobbered for a two-run homer in the second inning Wednesday.
That hit was easily the most damaging of the game on a night the Yankees downed the Red Sox, 3-1, in the first of 19 rivalry games this season.
"I'm glad I was able to get two runs on the board early against a former Cy Young winner," said Judge. " I know he has good stuff, so I was just trying to attack him early and get something over the plate."
Other than that, however, this was a night Porcello (1-3, 4.75 ERA) built some significant momentum in his quest to regain his American League Cy Young Award-winning form of 2016.
Just look at the nine strikeouts, which matched his season high of last season.
When Porcello is racking up the K's, it means that his four-seamer and patented two-seamer are working well off of each other. The righty got 16 swings and misses Wednesday.
In fact, Porcello had all of his pitches working for most of his outing, in which he gave up five hits and two earned runs over 6 2/3 innings. In his previous start at Toronto, Porcello allowed three runs, but none earned, over seven innings in a 3-0 loss.
"I think other than the one pitch where Judge pulls his hands inside of a fastball and hits it out of the ballpark, it was a solid outing by Rick once again tonight," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I think we were seeing a full assortment of pitches by Rick tonight for strikes. The sinker was down at the bottom of the strike zone, as we're looking for."
Porcello got six of his strikeouts on four-seamers. He got two on curveballs and one on a slider.
When Porcello can change eye levels, he is at his best.
"I think sinker and four-seam, the combination of both, was pretty solid for me today," said Porcello. "So I've got to keep building off that. The walks, they'll come back to hurt you."
Yes, the walks. Porcello had four of them, which was very uncharacteristic. The last time he walked four or more in a game was May 29, 2014. The normally pinpoint Porcello has only reached the four-walk mark six times in 246 career starts.
"I thought he got a lot of swing and miss at some fastballs up at the top of the strike zone and above, particularly to [Matthew Holliday]," said Farrell. "A couple of fastballs up to [Greg Bird] he was able to get some swing and miss on. But he threw four pitches for strikes here tonight, and he was with his full assortment able to throw strikes. The four walks are not common for Rick, but really didn't come into play in terms of what the scoreboard shows. It was a quality outing on Rick's part."
With David Price still on the shelf, the 11-9 Red Sox need more of these types of outings from Porcello. Ace Chris Sale, who starts Thursday against the Yankees, can't do it by himself.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts felt bad that his throwing error preceded the two-run rocket by Judge.
"I messed up right there with that inning, changed the whole game. Changed the whole inning right there," said Bogaerts. "But Rick is looking good, man. He's looking like the Rick we know."
Porcello doesn't feel all the way back. But he feels like he's getting there.
"Just getting back under control, that's the biggest thing," Porcello said. "When I get in trouble, I need to not let the game speed up, because then I get out of whack a little bit and I end up overthrowing. I just need to keep in that mindset of staying relaxed and executing pitches."