Boston Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello

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Rick Porcello had no doubt about pitching eighth inning against Astros

Nick Friar
May 18, 2019 - 7:00 am

Up until Jake Marisnick’s third at-bat of the night, Rick Porcello’s slider had been effective against the Astros on Friday. Of the 27 he’d thrown, only one went for a hit while four generated swing-and-misses — the only swing-and-misses he had all night.

The mistake to Marisnick was left up in the zone, which could have been a result of fatigue. Though Porcello didn’t think for a second he was coming out after the seventh inning, having only thrown 91 pitches.

“That’s on me in the eighth inning. I threw the two worst pitches of the night to back-to-back hitters, back-to-back pitches and that was the result. I got to do a better job,” Porcello said. “AC (Alex Cora) trusts me to go out there in the eighth inning and I got to make better pitches, at least. If they hit those, then fine, but those were cookies.

“I’m out there. It’s on me. He’s got the confidence to leave me out there and I got to do a better job of, I guess, rewarding that confidence. That’s a hundred percent on me. My pitch count was intact. I was fine. I got to make a better pitch.”

The second pitch he referenced was the changeup that resulted in George Springer’s home run, Porcello’s final pitch of the night. It was also only changeup No. 10 out of the 95 pitches he had thrown. That was put in play six out of the 10 times he threw it, five of which were outs.

But unlike the changeup, Porcello’s slider has proven to be a swing-and-miss pitch — throughout the season, not just in Friday’s 3-1 loss — like it was in 2018 when hitters missed it 22.5 percent of the time they swung at it, according to Statcast. His fastball (26.4 percent) and his curveball (29.8 percent) generated more swing-and-misses last year, but have taken a step back this season (fastball 18.8 and curve 15.0 percent).

Which explains why Porcello is using his slider (19.7 percent) more than his changeup (11.9 percent) and curve (9.8 percent).

However, Porcello went to the well 29.5 percent of the time he threw a pitch on Friday. That’s the second-most he’s used his slider this year (36.0 percent on April 30). But when asked if he felt he utilized his slider more against the Astros than normal, Porcello simply replied, “No.”

That’s because Porcello has progressively used his slider more throughout his recent run of success.

In his first three starts — which didn’t go well — Porcello went to the slider 13.8 percent of the time. Over his last six starts, 23.4 percent of his pitches have been sliders. In this six-start span, Porcello has a 2.97 ERA over 39 1/3 innings, as opposed to the 11.12 ERA he had over his first three starts (11 1/3 innings).

Even though Porcello is the type of pitcher that’s always prepared to go the distance, it’s clear he has reason to feel that way now, given he’s found the pitch that’s most likely to catch hitters off guard.