BOSTON (CBS) — Rick Porcello has accomplished quite a bit during his career, but the Boston righty is still looking for the first postseason win.
He hopes to finally secure that “W” on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, as the Red Sox look to close out the Yankees in the Divisional Series and advance to the ALCS.
“I couldn’t think of a better spot to be in as a big leaguer, getting the opportunity to have the ball for Game 4 in Yankee Stadium. That’s what it’s all about,” Porcello said Monday about his upcoming start.
Porcello uttered those words hours before the Red Sox beat the Yankees like a drum in Game 3, embarrassing their hated rival 16-1 to take a 2-1 series lead. Tuesday night will mark Porcello’s first career playoff start in the Bronx, which is roughly 40 miles from his hometown of Morristown, New Jersey.
So will we see plenty of members of the Porcello clan and other supporters on Tuesday night in enemy territory?
“I learned how to say no, so there’s not that many people coming,” the 29-year-old said. “Yeah, I have a lot of friends that are envious of the position I’m in right now. I get the opportunity to pitch against the Yankees in the postseason with the seasons that we’ve both had and kind of the — I guess the energy between us. It’s been exciting playing these guys this year.”
History, however, does not appear to be on Porcello’s side heading into Tuesday night’s potential clincher. He’s 0-3 in his postseason career with a 5.33 ERA in 12 games — only four of which were starts (he has a 5.85 ERA in those). His ERA in seven ALDS appearances jumps up to 6.46, and he’s allowed seven earned runs in his 8.1 innings as a postseason starter for Boston. The Red Sox lost both of those games.
Porcello has also struggled in Yankee Stadium. He’s made seven starts against the Yankees on their home field in his career, and he’s won just one of them. Overall, Porcello is 1-4 with a 5.56 ERA and 1.420 WHIP in those seven starts. Aside from that lone victory, Porcello’s teams have lost each of the other six.
So maybe Porcello is due for a solid postseason outing in a place that hasn’t been particularly kind to him. Stranger things have happened, as we saw on full display Monday night.
If you’re looking for a glimmer of hope, Porcello did pitch well against the Yankees during the regular season. He went 2-0 in his four starts with a solid 2.31 ERA against New York’s powerful lineup, and threw perhaps one of the best games of his career. Porcello needed just 86 pitches to twirl a complete game against the Yanks at Fenway Park back on Aug. 3, holding them to just one run off one hit — a Miguel Andujar solo homer — while striking out nine. He retired the last 21 batters of that game, an absolute gem that took just two hours and 15 minutes.
Porcello was locked in and went right after New York hitters that night. He said he’ll be taking a similar approach Tuesday night as he tries to end the Yankees’ season.
“I just think attacking their hitters. That’s the biggest thing. These guys are very good hitters. They’re very well coached. They have a solid approach. If you fall behind guys, you give them the opportunity to see pitches in the strike zone,” he said. “That’s the only way you can get back into the count because they’re disciplined and they don’t chase a lot. I think attacking, being aggressive, and go from there.”
Limiting the long ball will be key for Porcello on Tuesday. The Yankees take advantage of that short porch in right field, and they’ve hit their share of dingers off Porcello. Aaron Judge, who was out when Porcello shut down the Yankees in early August, is 4-for-16 in his limited experience against him, but one of those hits was a homer. New York shortstop Didi Gregorious has just five hits against Porcello in 31 at-bats, good for a .161 average, but two of those hits have left the yard. Aaron Hicks is just 4-for-32 against him, but he also has a pair of round-trippers. Even Brett Gardner has taken Porcello deep twice in his 56 at-bats against him.
Giancarlo Stanton has yet to send a Porcello offering deep into the night’s sky, but he is 3-for-8 with a pair of doubles and five RBIs. When Stanton has hit Porcello, he’s hit him hard, even if it did stay in the ballpark.
If Porcello does struggle, at least the Red Sox have a fresh bullpen behind him thanks to Nathan Eovaldi’s seven shutout innings on Monday. They also have a rested Chris Sale ready to go in a potential winner-takes-all Game 5 at Fenway Park on Thursday.
But Porcello hopes it doesn’t get to that point. He’d much rather send the Yankees packing by picking up his first career playoff win, and punch the Red Sox’ ticket to the ALCS in the process.