Detroit — He’s on a roll like none other during his career.
Even when Rick Porcello went 5-0 in July three years ago, it was nothing like this.
Then again, not many pitchers throw consecutive complete-game shutouts, and fewer still accomplish it when one of the gems doesn’t include a walk or a strikeout.
But that’s the kind of game Porcello pitched at Comerica Park on Tuesday night in a rapid, 3-0 victory over the A’s.
He didn’t strike out anyone.
He didn’t walk anyone.
He allowed four hits, one more than he gave up to Rangers last week.
But his streak of 251⁄3 scoreless innings dates earlier than the Rangers game. It also includes the six scoreless innings he threw on the road against the Indians on June 20 and 11⁄3 innings of the way he finished against the Twins on June 13.
No wonder there’s a ton of All-Star talk about him now. Porcello’s earned such talk.
And because he’s pitched well most of the season, it’s also no wonder he is tied for the American League lead in victories with an 11-4 record.
Granted, he would have liked to have had at least one strikeout against Oakland — so that it couldn’t be said that he is the fourth Detroit pitcher, and the first since Dizzy Trout in 1944, to throw a complete-game shutout without a walk or a strikeout.
But keep this in mind, as Porcello himself does: To pitch this effectively is difficult. In his two worst games this season, Porcello allowed 12 earned runs on 22 hits in 112⁄3 innings.
So, to allow only seven hits in back-to-back shutouts is a feat to be savored.
“I gave up so many hits early my first five years, I finally figured out where not to throw the ball,” Porcello said. “I would have liked to have had a strikeout, but I’ll take a game like this over anything.”
The key to Porcello’s effectiveness, and the reason the A’s hit into 17 ground-ball outs, was his sinker. If it starts out up in the zone, it can be hit. If it starts out where Porcello wants it to, it’ll be hit harmlessly to an infielder.
“He kept it down almost every single time he threw it,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “And his change-up was exceptional. His off-speed pitches were very complementary. That’s why he was so effective.”
Torii Hunter, whose grounder to short drove in Miguel Cabrera from third in the fourth inning for the Tigers first run, didn’t have a fly ball hit to him in right field for an out the entire game.
“It was kind of boring out there,” Hunter said. “But that’s a sign our starting pitcher is doing something great. Porcello looks good. He’s 25 and hasn’t even tested his ceiling yet, not even close.
“He has a lot of room to grow, that’s what is scary.”
Porcello needed only 95 pitches to complete his shutout. The game was over by 9:22 p.m.
“It went quickly, with a painless ninth inning,” Ausmus said. “I actually remember playing here and occasionally finishing games when the sun hadn’t fully set.
“I remembered that when the game was over, because that was the case this time.”
As for the victory itself, the Tigers went into the game 9-2 since going 9-20 — a “go figure” team if ever there was one.
Now they’re 10-2 since going 9-20 — careening from hot to cold, now back to hot again.
The effect of the last 12 games is that the Tigers have sped away from the problems that landed them for three alarming days in second place.
Now all is well again. They’re back in first and have asserted themselves not just with a 7-2 trip, but with victories in the first two games of a homestand.
Rajai Davis won the series opener with a walk-off grand slam.
Porcello won this game with his third straight scoreless start, and his second consecutive complete-game shutout, after which the All-Star talk about him is sure to get louder.
Will he be an All-Star for the first time in his career? You’d be hard-pressed to find a reason he shouldn’t.
Meanwhile, after the Tigers scored in the fourth, they got another big hit in the sixth from Martinez, their designated hitter.
Except it wasn’t Victor Martinez, who sat out a second consecutive game with a sore side. It was J.D. Martinez, who hit his 10th home run off A’s starter Brad Mills with one out.
That, Hunter’s RBI was all the run support Porcello got.
But even more than he needed.