Porcello takes shots, but holds off Dodgers
Comebackers don't knock Tigers righty out of fourth win
LOS ANGELES -- The damage on Rick Porcello's pitching line read far better than one might have expected for nine Dodgers hits, turning in a quality start that helped the Tigers finally cool off the red-hot Dodgers for a 6-2 win.
The damage on Porcello's right forearm and right thigh suggested he took a worse beating than that.
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"He's hurting," manager Jim Leyland said. "But he did well. He's a tough kid."
Porcello has had his share of sophomore struggles this season in which opposing hitters looked like they were taking batting practice. This outing looked more like target practice, with Porcello right in the crosshairs.
"I've never seen that," first baseman Miguel Cabrera said. "It was crazy."
No less than three Dodgers comebackers took aim at Porcello on the mound. One, he admitted, happened to find his glove. The other two found body parts that he needs to pitch, and they left him smarting.
"Tell him to catch it," Inge said, jokingly. "Just kidding."
Manny Ramirez's pinch-hit grounder with the bases loaded, on the other hand, left Porcello victorious -- still smarting, but victorious. And as Porcello dressed for the bus to the airport for the Tigers' flight to Seattle, he had the look of a quarterback who had been knocked down a couple times, but not knocked out.
"The forearm is sore, but it'll be fine," Porcello said. "I'll be good to go for my next start."
If he can keep his sinker working like it did Sunday, he should be in good shape.
When Porcello has his sinker working, he has the ability to roll off one ground ball after another and send down opponents quickly. But as Inge explained, it can also get a lot of comebackers from left-handed hitters who dive out over the plate at sinkers that start on the outside corner, then pull their hands in once it comes back inside.
While all nine Dodgers hits were singles, Porcello induced 11 ground-ball outs compared with just three in the air, a mix that will usually lead the Tigers to victory. One of those flyouts was a Matt Kemp line drive that Porcello somehow snared with his glove before firing to second base to complete the double play and end the first inning.
"I think the hardest one that was hit back at me was the one that Kemp hit that I caught," Porcello said.
Russell Martin's leadoff liner to center that inning was the Dodgers' lone hit until Xavier Paul shot a one-out grounder through the middle (of course) in the fourth and Kemp hit a liner to left-center. James Loney centered a 95 mph fastball and sent it back to Porcello's arm with equal ferocity.
Had Porcello not recovered so quickly, it would have left the bases loaded and one out for Casey Blake. Instead, Porcello gathered himself so quickly that he barely missed a double play, firing to second for the force out before Loney barely beat the throw to first.
"That one hit me pretty square," Porcello said. "There'll be a bruise."
It did not, however, affect his range of motion, a point Porcello demonstrated in his warmup tosses as Leyland and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand watched. He stayed in the game to get a groundout to third from Blake, then a Garret Anderson groundout to first before Blake DeWitt centered the last of the shots.
DeWitt's comebacker hit Porcello right on his right hamstring, and it left no chance at a play. That started the Dodgers' lone scoring rally, capped by Paul's line drive to left before Porcello retired Kemp to keep the Tigers ahead.
That was it for the shots off Porcello, but it wasn't his last test. Three straight two-out singles, including a Jamey Carroll grounder to deep short, loaded the bases in the sixth and brought Ramirez out of the dugout. Ramirez didn't start Sunday, but with a chance to pull Los Angeles ahead for a series sweep, he hit for starting pitcher Huroki Kuroda.
The roar for Ramirez from the 46,053 at Dodger Stadium lasted longer than his at-bat. Porcello threw one of his better sinkers of the night, bearing it inside on the star, and Ramirez grounded it to third as the crowd hushed.
Porcello's day was done, but by a groundout, not a knockout.
"He's obviously a great hitter, and if he gets me on a pitch that I wanted to throw to him, and it's in the location that I want it to be in, then you have to tip your hat," Porcello said. "But I was just trying to make a pitch and get a good sinker in on his hands. ... That was pretty much where I wanted it."
Porcello's performance preserved a lead the Tigers built in the opening inning off Kuroda and extended after Porcello left. After Magglio Ordonez singled in Johnny Damon, Miguel Cabrera followed with a line drive that cleared the "Mannywood" banner on the left-field fence in a hurry for Cabrera's 10th home run of the season.
Ordonez added an insurance run in the eighth with his sixth home run of the season, a drive to left-center field off Ronald Belisario. Adam Everett's pinch-hit squeeze bunt in the eighth and Damon's two-out RBI single put the game essentially out of reach.
It also gave Porcello a win for his trouble. He improved to 4-0 in five Interleague starts, but won in California for the first time in his big league career.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.