Rick Porcello just signed with the New York Mets. He was the first of the starters to come out of the bullpen as The Rover that postseason, in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees. This set up Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, and David Price all doing the same on the way to a Championship.
So let’s take a minute to appreciate Rick Porcello's start from the ho hum, nothing to see here, Game 4 of the 2018 ALCS in Houston. He comes in to start the fourth inning and proceeds to give up a pesky pole special, a 326 foot homer to Mookie Betts' best pal, and Number 9 hitter, Tony Kemp.
Tony Kemp. What a gnat. If the script was flipped and Houston wins in five it might've been Kemp instead of our beloved (and perhaps soon to be traded) Jackie Bradley Jr. winning the ALCS MVP that year. Then he faces the daunting top of the Astros lineup.
Just imagine: The roof is closed on Minute Maid park. The smell of leather, sweat, the Jackson Street BBQ and Taco Trio in the air. The awesome noise of the Houston fans pounding on Porcello's amygdala. It’s Alex Bregman at bat, looking to atone for inciting the Sox with his Instagram post mocking Eovaldi before Game 3. Can we get an Instagram post of this sweet 102 MPH dot he swung through in his last at bat of the season? You know, this one. Ah, I think David Price said it better.
At one point in the series Bregman was slashing a .000 batting average, .700 on base average, and .000 slugging percentage that was blowing statisticians minds. Porcello dispatched the 800 lb gorilla of the Astros lineup with a strikeout, spotting the low and outside corner again and again. Then comes George Springer, doing his best Carlos Beltran playoff edition impression, having already homered and doubled in this game alone. Walk. Springer sprints to second on a blown Porcello toss over, inciting the Houston Thunderdome again.
It’s 4 - 3 Astros and they’re looking for more. With two outs, now Rick has to face the Astro’s Tyrion Lannister, Jose Altuve, full of rage and frustration from having a home run taken away in the bottom of the first, or not (gotta love the extra cameras cheating allegations in this link), to deal with. And Altuve's doing his best Kirk Gibson, limping along and stinging every ball he gets his bat on. Porcello induces a gentle, tiny, wrapped like a little burrito just out of the womb, infield pop up. As insignificant an outcome as there is from one of the best bat handlers in the game, especially considering the Astros batters may have had extra help. Brilliance.
Yes, Rick Porcello didn’t have his best stuff. The Astros got to him. But Houston was on the precipice of routing him in the early innings of ALCS Game 4. But Porcello held his ground against the toughest part of the deepest lineup in baseball, and stood as tall as Nolan Ryan or, dare I say, David Price ever did. Those four innings gave way to a bullpen game the Sox eventually won 8-6, including a two inning heart-attack save from Craig Kimbrel. It was typical Porcello, underappreciated and winning on the margins. We tip our weathered hats and frayed nerves to you Rick Porcello. You are a battler's battler, and you will be missed.