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Porcello remains hot in fourth Spring Training start

Allows only three singles in five scoreless innings, striking out four in Tigers' win

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rick Porcello continued his stellar Spring Training with five scoreless innings and four strikeouts, shutting down a Nationals lineup that included Bryce Harper, as Detroit's early lead held for a 2-1 win on Sunday at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Porcello became the first Tigers starter to work five innings, and he allowed only three singles. Not only did he stretch his streak of innings without a walk to 13, he didn't reach a three-ball count to any of the 18 batters he faced. He threw 42 of his 60 pitches for strikes.

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All four of Porcello's strikeouts came against left-handed hitters, a group that hit .325 against him last season. Three of the strikeouts were called third strikes, including Harper to lead off the fourth, and inside fastballs on Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy.

Nationals starter Dan Haren did his best to keep pace, and likely would have if not for a couple of misplays behind him in the second inning. Left fielder Tyler Moore lost Prince Fielder's fly ball in the sun for a leadoff single before Alex Avila pulled a ground ball under first baseman Chris Marrero's glove three batters later to drive in Fielder and give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Don Kelly followed with an RBI double down the right-field line to complete the damage off Haren, who allowed five hits in four innings with two strikeouts.

The Nationals' run came in the seventh when Carlos Rivero scored on a Matt Skole sacrifice fly off Duane Below. Detroit's bullpen candidates Brayan Villarreal, who struck out the side in the eighth, and Luis Marte shut it down from there.

Andy Dirks had the lone multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with a double.

Up next: Bruce Rondon might get his chance to protect a lead for Justin Verlander on Monday, when the Tigers host the Mets in a 1:05 p.m. ET game at Joker Marchant Stadium. Both the rookie closing candidate and the veteran ace are scheduled to pitch, along with Kyle Lobstein, Phil Coke and Jose Ortega. Jonathon Niese will start against the Tigers for the second time this spring. The game can be heard live on AM 1270 in Detroit or on Gameday Audio online.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

Detroit Tigers, Alex Avila, Duane Below, Phil Coke, Andy Dirks, Prince Fielder, Don Kelly, Kyle Lobstein, Luis Marte, Jose Ortega, Rick Porcello, Bruce Rondon, Justin Verlander, Brayan Villarreal