Kansas City, Missouri – One would think that even at this late hour, with the break beginning after Sunday’s games, there’d be room on the American League All-Star team for a pitcher with 12 wins.
Such as Rick Porcello.
After all, there’s no one in the A.L. with more than Porcello’s 12 – the latest being his 5-1 victory on Saturday night over the Kansas City Royals.
For the Tigers, the victory positioned them for a possible four-game sweep of the fading Royals, who are still in second place in the A.L. Central, but light years back at 7.5 games.
“The separation is important,” said Alex Avila, “but we can’t be concerned about the size of the lead. We just can’t.
“In a week, things can be completely different, so all you can do is make sure you’re prepared for each game.”
The win was the Tigers’ fifth in a row, and their sixth in the six games they’ve played at Kauffman Stadium this season.
In those six, they’ve outscored the Royals 49-14.
Porcello’s record improved to 12-5, and while that looks like an All-Star won-lost record, the official recognition just hasn’t materialized.
Even when the A.L. team needed to replace Tampa Bay’s David Price on Saturday because Price’s illness bumped his scheduled start to Sunday, it turned to former Tiger Fernando Rodney instead of Porcello.
That’s not to say Rodney doesn’t have All-Star numbers – his ERA of 1.98 certainly qualifies – but a Saturday starter can work an inning in a Tuesday night All-Star Game as easily as a closer can.
“There are going to be snubs every year,” said manager Brad Ausmus, “and I think he’s clearly a snub.
“Everybody in this clubhouse thinks of him as an All-Star,” relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain said of Porcello. “Without a doubt. One hundred percent.”
Knowing how well he’s pitched thus far, however, Porcello is bound to enjoy the break no matter what.
Plus he takes with him the immense satisfaction of what his teammates think of the job he’s done.
“This is a tight-knit group, and that honestly means more to me than anything,” Porcello said.
In this game, he got into three jams but worked out of two. The only run off him scored on Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.
In the second inning, Porcello gave up consecutive singles with no outs, but struck out Mike Moustakas, then got Alcides Escobar to hit into a double-play.
Escobar came into the game 1-for-23 in his career against Porcello – only to have it drop to 1-for-26 with three more feeble at-bats against him.
The second jam occurred in the fifth when a leadoff double by Butler and a walk to Moustakas provided the Royals with another first-and-second chance.
Escobar’s high hopper to third made it a first-and-third opportunity with one out.
The chance wasn’t going anywhere, though. Jarrod Dyson’s fly ball to left was far too shallow to knock in a tank like Butler from third, and after a walk to Nori Aoki loaded the bases, Lorenzo Cain struck out.
“One run allowed in seven innings, he obviously did a nice job,” Ausmus said of Porcello.
The Tigers, meanwhile, were in the enviable position that anything more than nothing offensively would be enough for them to win the game – considering that the Royals weren’t knocking down the fences.
And while the Tigers didn’t come up with much until J.D. Martinez and Avila each hit a home run in the three-run ninth off Aaron Crow, they came up with enough.
In the third with no outs, Austin Jackson doubled on a 1-2 pitch from starter James Shields (9-5) and Ian Kinsler quickly followed with a first-pitch single to make it a 1-0 Tigers lead.
Torii Hunter tripled with one out in the fourth, hustling to get to third more than it looked like the Royals did to make a play on him – and the split second by which Hunter got there safely paid off.
The trip was Hunter’s first of the season.
Down 1-2 in the count with two outs, Avila extended it to full before his single to left off Shields knocked in Hunter for the Tigers’ second run.
“Over the last few years, I’ve had some good battles with Shields,” said Avila. “He’s extremely tough and has a million different pitches on both sides of the plate that he can get you out with.
“I believe the pitch I hit was change-up, but it was the only one I saw all day.”
The three runs were icing on a cake that needed none, though. For the second consecutive night, the Tigers could have won with two.