Arlington, Texas — Ten wins by the end of June?
You know what kind of talk that can lead to for a starting pitcher.
So when the possibility of being named an All-Star was brought up to Rick Porcello after the first shutout of his career Thursday night, a 6-0 three-hit triumph over the Texas Rangers, Porcello didn’t hide from acknowledging the honor it would be.
But he also didn’t gush about how much he wants it. Then again, Porcello isn’t the gushing type.
He’s a 25-year-old, coming of age as a major-league starting pitcher.
If he’s named an All-Star, great.
If he isn’t, oh well. He still has a job to do — and, at 10-4, is doing it quite well.
“It would be a huge honor if I were to make it,” Porcello said of the American League All-Star team, “but it’s not anything I can think about.
“When I’m handed the ball, I go out there and try to give us a quality start. We’ll see where it ends up. I’d love to be a part of it, but for now, the most important thing is for us to keep winning games.”
As for having 10 wins, Porcello said, “I don’t want to play that down. I’m very fortunate to get to that mark, but it’s a product of the defense playing behind me and how well the guys have swung the bat when I’ve been on the mound.”
The complete game was the second of Porcello’s career. But the shutout was his first.
When it came time to decide after eight innings if Porcello should go back out for the ninth, the decision was relatively easy for manager Brad Ausmus.
But he still had to be careful.
“He was at 105 pitches,” Ausmus said. “You don’t want him going much above 115, or maybe topping out at 120.
“So it was kind of a tall task to ask him to get through the ninth (in 15 pitches or less), but he was able to do it. He got the outs quickly.”
It was with a rare sense of certainty in the outcome that the story of this game could be started after three innings, however.
That’s how flat the Texas Rangers looked in a loss that was their eighth straight.
But more than that, that’s how entirely back to earlier form the Tigers seem to be — as in pre-hideous-slump form.
Winning their seventh in a row, a streak that’s been put together while the other teams in the AL Central have been losing — all, save one, that is — the Tigers have not merely climbed back into first place.
But back into first by a bunch.
By 4.5 games, in fact, when just a week ago they were headed to Cleveland in second place by a half game —but happy to be coming off a series-ending victory over Kansas City. Since then, the Tigers have done little wrong and those who have returned to chasing them have done little right.
Here are the last-seven-games records of each team in the division:
1. Tigers 7-0
2. Twins 4-3
3. Indians 2-5
4. Royals 1-6
5. White Sox 1-6
A trap door has opened under the Royals — and into the abyss the Tigers vacated, the Royals seem to have fallen.
The White Sox weren’t in first, as the Royals were last week, but have you checked the standings lately? They’re in last place.
For the Indians, the .500 level is a constant challenge.
And the Twins, despite winning more than losing in the last week, have fallen to eight games out.
Suddenly there’s breathing room at the top again for the Tigers — and maybe they’ll protect it better than the seven-game lead they had on May 19 when they were 27-12.
“There’s no breathing room,” Ausmus said. “We still have to win games.”
As for Thursday night’s outcome, the clearest early difference was in the way Porcello was on his game and Rangers starter Nick Martinez wasn’t.
In 2.1 innings, Martinez (who beat the Tigers on May 24) allowed four runs on six hits and five walks. He also wasn’t helped by the statue of Shin Soo-Choo, who barely moved on a couple of early fly balls to left that he lost in the sun.
With four hits, Miguel Cabrera had a fine night — after going 1-for-8 in the first two games of the series. Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos each had two hits.
However, the 14-game hitting streak of J.D. Martinez, the longest of his career and the longest active streak in the majors, came to an end. But he still had an RBI.
Thoroughly enjoying the three-game sweep of his former team, Kinsler had a 6-for-12 series.
“I’m sure he had a little extra adrenaline, as is often the case when you play the team that traded you away,” Ausmus said.
All that was remained after the Tigers took a 5-0 by the fifth, however, was to see how deep into the game, and how well, Porcello would pitch.
The answers turned out to be all nine innings.