Rick Porcello earned his first win since May 16 Wednesday night against the Marlins. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Ryan Hanigan playing major part in turning Rick Porcello around: 'I want him to get to a point to dominate the game'

Ryan Hannable
July 08, 2015 - 7:35 pm

Even with Rick Porcello entering Wednesday's start with a 6.09 ERA, the lowest among qualified AL starters, manager John Farrell was looking forward to seeing Porcello work with catcher Ryan Hanigan for the first time since Hanigan came back from his broken hand suffered on May 1. With Porcello not recording a win since May 16, it was important for the right-hander to go into the All-Star break on a high note, which is exactly what happened as Porcello earned the win in the Red Sox' 6-3 win over the Marlins. Porcello went six innings, allowing two runs on eight hits while walking a batter and striking out four. He lowered his ERA to 5.90, which is still the worst among AL starters, but it was a step in the right direction nonetheless. The win snapped a career-long seven straight losing starts. "I though he and [Hanigan] worked well," Farrell said. "They changed up some sequences depending on left and right and multiple times through the order. A lift for Rick for sure, and a start that we needed out of him." The numbers don't lie -- Porcello is a better pitcher with Hanigan behind the plate. In four starts with Hanigan behind the plate this season, Porcello has a 3.60 ERA with seven walks and 21 strikeouts over 25 innings. In 13 starts with either Sandy Leon or Blake Swihart behind the plate, Porcello has a 6.70 ERA with 16 walks and 58 strikeouts over 75 2/3 innings. "It's huge," Porcello said of having Hanigan catch him. "Experienced, veteran catcher, I trust him." "With Porcello, we had a good thing going before I got hurt so I think that is a little bit of a bond we built," Hanigan added. "Nothing against the way these other guys are doing their job, they are doing a good job. I feel in a groove with him. I like catching him. I was really happy for him tonight. Quality start and we'll build from it. I want him to get to a point to dominate the game and have some really shutdown games. One step at a time and tonight was a good start." The Red Sox as a team are 14-8 when Hanigan starts. This doesn't come as a surprise to Farrell. "Experience. Reading swings. Just being able to use a combination of pitches depending on hitter and situation. There's no substitute for experience. The other guys that have been behind the plate for us have been talented in their own right, but there learning curve is pretty steep as they come to the big leagues or change leagues. [Hanigan's] track record is clearly playing out as he hoped and anticipated. He's a very good game-caller." The biggest difference with Hanigan calling Porcello was in the calling of pitches. In most other starts this season, Porcello was relying more on his two-seamer compared to his four-seamer, but Wednesday was different. Porcello tied a season-high with 45 four-seam fastballs according to Brooksbaseball.net and didn't throw a single changeup for the first time all year. "His four-seam command has been great, it's just a matter of making sure he can throw his two-seamer with conviction while he throws his four-seamer," Hanigan said. "Sometimes he loses sinker a little bit, but lately and when I caught him I didn't see that at all. I think he did a great job." While Porcello had trouble again with a "shutdown" inning, allowing the two runs in the fourth after the Red Sox had scored four in the bottom of the third, he was able to limit the damage to just two runs. He helped his own cause with a great play on a comebacker off the bat of Christian Yelich with the bases loaded to end the frame. Holding the Marlins to only two runs in the inning was the biggest difference in Wednesday's start compared to some of his most recent ones. "I limited that big inning, that was it," Porcello said. "Other than that, just working on executing pitches. Hanigan called a great game back there, hung in there with him and I focused on making pitch after pitch." "It feels great. I contributed in a positive way to keep our streak going," he added. As the Red Sox are playing some of the best baseball in the majors at the moment, one of the major keys for them to potentially make a run in the AL East in the second half is the performance of Porcello. The former Detroit Tiger has proven he can be successful in the big leagues as he was 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA last season. Porcello took a major step to regaining that form Wednesday and it seems he may have refound his connection with Hanigan to help him along the way. "He was doing it all," Hanigan said. "He can do it all. He's going to get better. He'll be fine."