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Tigers vs. Red Sox Preview: The Rick Porcello narrative hasn’t changed all that much

All these years later, Porcello’s numbers are still marred by a bad start or two.

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Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Remember that time that Rick Porcello didn’t make it out of the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels? It wasn’t the only time Porcello got rocked while in a Tigers uniform — he coughed up eight runs in a single inning against the Texas Rangers a year before that infamous outing in L.A. — but it was the one that sticks in the mind of many Tigers fans when they think back on the 30-year-old’s tenure in Detroit. Hell, it created a verb on our site. Take away one bad start, and Porcello’s numbers are pretty darn good.

Well, it happened again. Porcello faced seven batters in his last start, a wild 17-13 affair in London against the Yankees, and six of them scored. He recorded just one out before he was pulled from the game, and his ERA increased by over half a run.

So, take away that bad start, and Porcello’s numbers... aren’t bad? He had a 4.52 ERA in 16 starts heading into the London matchup — a true outlier, given how many runs were scored in those two games — but without the usual sparkling advanced numbers that made him such a divisive figure in Detroit. His 4.24 FIP through those 16 starts is a bit better, while his 5.15 xFIP is downright bad.

If we cherrypick a bit more, Porcello’s pre-London numbers are much better. Excluding his first two starts of the year, one against the then-superhuman Mariners, Porcello has a 3.75 ERA and 3.82 FIP in 86 13 innings.

His last 86 13 innings, if we’re ignoring London. Can the Tigers turn that around against him on Saturday?

Boston Red Sox (47-41) at Detroit Tigers (28-55)

Time/Place: 4:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Over the Monster
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (5-7, 5.07 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-5, 5.36 ERA)

Game 85 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Porcello 94.0 18.3 7.2 4.41 1.4
Zimmermann 45.1 15.8 7.7 4.68 0.6

I’m not sure what to say about Jordan Zimmermann at this point. He has been fine since coming off the injured list, with a 4.20 ERA in his last three starts. His previous outing, a quality start against his former club, was previously the type of game we would scrutinize and wonder if he could turn his tenure in Detroit around.

I’m past that at this point. Zimmermann is what he is now, a starter who will eat innings when healthy, occasionally turn in a gem — he has three starts this year of six innings or more with just two combined runs allowed — but do so without any reasonable consistency. Fans won’t really know what to expect when turning into a Zimmermann start, which... I don’t know.

The Red Sox tagged him for five runs in three innings in their last meeting, for what it’s worth.

Key matchup: Porcello vs. the home run ball

The 2019 Tigers have not been a team to string hits together to score runs.

Then again, they haven’t been one to hit many homers either, but at least those only take one swing.

The latter has been problematic for Porcello this year, but only on the road. He has given up eight dingers in seven road starts, a stat not spoiled by the launch in London. His strikeout and walk numbers away from Fenway Park are better as well, but the home run rate (1.96 per nine innings) could be an issue.

Prediction

The Red Sox offense keeps rolling and Boston takes the second game of the series.