Rick Porcello

Kevin Wexler/USA Today Sports

Rick Porcello could dominate Yankees in Game 4 or implode and we don't know which version we'll get

John Tomase
October 09, 2018 - 1:26 pm

Rick Porcello's career is defined by its contrasts.

He's a Cy Young Award winner who has never won a playoff game. He has led the league in victories one season and losses the next. He's won at least 10 games nine times, but posted sub-4.00 ERAs just three times. He one-hit the Yankees this summer on a night when virtually every out was loud. He's a lifelong sinkerballer except on the days when he works almost exclusively up in the zone.

We could engage in this exercise all day -- he went 13-1 at Fenway Park in 2016 and 10-3 on the road in 2018 -- but its relevance to Tuesday's potentially clinching Game 4 of the American League Division Series is obvious.

Which Porcello will we see with a spot in the American League Championship Series vs. the defending champion Astros on the line?

"Rick's a bulldog," teammate Andrew Benintendi told reporters after a 16-1 victory in Game 3. "He'll go out there and compete. He doesn't care what situation he's thrown in. You saw the other night, he came in in the eighth inning. He just wants to win. We're confident in him. He goes out there, and he attacks. He's going to take it right to them. Hopefully, we can put up a good number of runs and get out of here with a win."

Porcello has already contributed to one victory this series, recording the first two outs of the eighth inning of Game 1 with the bullpen struggling, bridging the gap to closer Craig Kimbrel. He has also dominated the Yankees all season, going 2-0 with a  2.31 ERA while limiting New York to a miniscule .143 batting average that's skewed by an abnormally low .172 average on balls in play.

He's coming off an inconsistent 2018 that saw him win his first four starts of the year with a 1.40 ERA before settling into a more workmanlike groove. He was 11-3 at the All-Star break but finished 17-7.

After one-hitting the Yankees on Aug. 3, Porcello went 3-3 with a 5.51 ERA over his final 10 starts, leading many to believe that right-hander Nathan Eovaldi had leapfrogged him on the depth chart. Even though that wasn't technically the case, Eovaldi ended up starting and winning Game 3 with an outstanding outing after Porcello's relief outing pushed him back a day.

And so now the wheel spins back around to Porcello for Game 4. If he wins, the Red Sox can reset their rotation for what's sure to be a brutal ALCS against the rampaging Astros, who just swept the Indians. If he loses, the Red Sox will have to burn ace Chris Sale in the decisive Game 5 just to reach the next round.

"Porcello will be ready," Game 3 hero Brock Holt told reporters. "He's been good for us all year. I don't know. I mean, you could put any of our guys out there, but for him, like Andrew said, he's a bulldog. He throws strikes. He pounds the zone. Like you said, he wants to win. I think he'll obviously be ready for (Tuesday). We're lucky to have him on the mound, that's for sure."

For his part, before the Red Sox even beat the Yankees on Monday, Porcello declared himself good to go.

"This is what it's all about," he said. "You get an opportunity to have the ball in Yankee Stadium, Game 4, this is the culmination of the entire season (that) leads up to your opportunities in the postseason. So I'm definitely looking forward to that and giving us a chance to win."