For six seasons and four postseasons with the Detroit Tigers, Rick Porcello watched teammates Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer start the openers of playoff series. The biggest lesson: Stay with your Zdeno Chara Jersey routine and keep things as normal as possible, even with all the distractions swirling around you.
The short outing was by design. The shaky outing — he gave up five hits and two runs to the 14 batters he faced — was not. It was the lone throwaway of the bunch. In fact, his best outing of the five might have been the one after facing the Marlins, when he wrapped five innings of one-hit ball around a rain delay.
He got up to 91 Angel Pagan Jersey pitches on Sept. 24 and feels as if he has no restrictions with strength or stamina now that the playoffs have arrived.
“At first, when you’re coming back from an injury, it’s just while you’re obviously competing out there, in the back of your head, you’re like, ‘Am I going to hurt it again?’ ” he said. “I had that, for sure, the first couple times out there.
“The last two or three starts, I’ve really haven’t thought about it. My work in between is as close to normal as it’s going to be. So I really haven’t thought about, you know, re-injuring or anything like that. I feel as close to 100 percent as anybody else is at this time of year right now.”
But for the Indians, the opportunity to play Games 1 and 2 in Cleveland was validation for grinding it out through all the injuries, slumps and other potholes they encountered during the regular season. They posted a 94-67 record and benefited from a late fade by Boston to avoid having to play a Monday makeup game against Detroit. The Red Sox, meanwhile, finished 93-69 and missed out on the opportunity to begin the series at Fenway Park, where their offense is especially daunting.
Boston appeared to have a clear pitching edge with Cy Young candidate Rick Porcello taking on Trevor Bauer, who rated as Cleveland’s No. 4 starter before the rotation was crushed by injuries. Bauer has terrific stuff, but he’s a deep thinker who is admittedly high-maintenance because of his outside-the-box preparation. Thursday’s TV broadcast showed him long-tossing while listening to music on headphones, chucking a ball at hyper-speed from behind the mound between innings, and engaging in the type of behavior that has earned him a reputation as “quirky” in baseball circles.
His abject outing, though, just might help Yu Darvish.
In Hamels’ 42-pitch third inning, he stopped throwing the ball and started aiming it. Adrenaline consumed him, and disaster ensued because he couldn’t command his fastball or any other pitch.
“So I don’t think he needs to watch his emotions. I think he needs — these are settings that, they’re electric. There are going to be emotions and players need to be able to play within their own emotions. Just don’t be emotional about it.”
In other words, be the opposite of Hamels, whose emotions swallowed him. That’s surprising, considering he was the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008, and has now started 15 postseason games.
Now, though, comes the question of the playoffs. For all of Kershaw’s regular-season dominance, there is that postseason vulnerability. A popular theory is that Kershaw’s injury was actually a blessing in disguise since it kept his innings count low, but the left-hander never felt as if he had ever battled end-of-season exhaustion.
“It happens, man. He ain’t perfect,” David Ortiz said. “He’s a human being just like everyone else. He left a couple pitches on the plate, and unfortunately that’s what happened. But he’s human.”
Indians catcher Roberto Perez, a .183 hitter during the season, belted a full-count fastball that caught too much plate because Porcello didn’t want to walk him, an acceptable situation except for what occurred next. Two batters later, he elevated a sinker to Jason Kipnis for another home run. He tried a changeup to Francisco Lindor, but that went out of the ballpark, too.