Porcello chased by hard-hitting White Sox
Righty surrenders seven runs, two homers over 4 1/3 innings
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland thought starter Rick Porcello had his best stuff in his last start. On Tuesday, however, Porcello wasn't able to build off his last outing. Instead, the skipper thought Porcello had his worst stuff since being recalled from Triple-A Toledo.
Porcello allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings in the Tigers 12-2 blowout loss to the White Sox in the matinee game of Tuesday's day-night doubleheader at Comerica Park.
"It all starts with pitching," Leyland said. "We had bad pitching today. We kept throwing in the middle of the plate and they kept whacking it and we kept throwing it up there and they kept whacking it. That pretty much sums up the game.
"We just got blown out, but the pitching was absolutely terrible today. You can't pitch like that up here. You need a good pitching performance, and we didn't get one today."
The loss drops the Tigers to 4-15 since the All-Star break and drops the club to eight games behind the American League Central-leading White Sox. Detroit also fell under .500 for the first time this season with the loss (52-53).
The afternoon couldn't have started much better for Porcello. The 21-year-old had his sinker rolling early and retired the first three batters he faced via groundout. The same stayed true in the second inning, where Porcello easily retired the side in order.
Then something changed. The White Sox offense caught fire and Porcello (4-10) couldn't get ahead in the counts. The seven runs allowed by Porcello was one shy of a season high, which came against the White Sox before being demoted to Toledo.
Porcello had looked strong in three starts since being recalled, yet wasn't able to record a win. He said his stuff wasn't that different than what he displayed against Tampa Bay, where he went 7 1/3 innings and struck out a season-high eight batters en route to allowing four earned runs.
But on Tuesday, when he missed with pitches, the White Sox lineup made him pay.
"The biggest difference was in Tampa I was getting ahead of guys and throwing strikes," Porcello said. "Today, that wasn't happening. If you don't do that, you put yourself in a hole and it makes it a lot more difficult to get through a lineup, especially the lineup they have."
Said catcher Gerald Laird: "The first two innings, he got ahead and he made his pitches to get quick outs. And then after the second inning, he just kind of lost it and lost his command, and that's basically it."
Chicago drilled Porcello in the third inning and tallied four runs. He escaped the fourth inning by only giving up one run before surrendering a pair of solo homers in the fifth inning that broke the game open. Juan Pierre -- known for his speed, not power -- recorded his first home run since Sept. 15, 2008, off Porcello and Alex Rios followed suit two batters later with a shot to left field.
Leyland had seen enough when Porcello walked the next batter he faced after Rios' blast.
"They jumped on some pitches and you tip your hat to them," Porcello said. "After those first two innings, for whatever reason, I wasn't effective. They hit a couple breaking balls out. They hit a couple fastballs hard. I looked back at the tape and there were a couple bad pitches here and there, but it wasn't like I completely just didn't have anything.
"I think the bottom line is, when they get a couple runners on, I've got to bear down. That's the time when I have been having bad games and giving up runs, those are the key moments when I need to bear down and get a guy out. In the third inning, I had two outs and they put two runs across. I have to get out of that inning and put us back in the dugout. It's damage control and I have to do a better job about it."
White Sox starter Mark Buehrle didn't need to pull out his damage control plans on the afternoon. Buehrle (10-8) went 7 2/3 innings and only gave up two earned runs.
"This was definitely a lousy performance today," said Johnny Damon, who went 0-for-4. "Buehrle knows how to pitch, but when we got the pitches to hammer, it seemed like we kept hitting them straight up in the air."
Center fielder Austin Jackson plated one of Detroit's two runs in the third inning with an RBI single. He went 3-for-4 on the afternoon to take the lead among American League rookies with 121 hits. Jeff Frazier recorded his first career big league RBI in the eighth inning. But by then, the game was out of reach.
The Tigers were hoping their return to Comerica Park, where the club had won 20 of its last 27 games, could help get the ball rolling in the right direction after a road trip where the team went 1-6. Instead, Detroit received a poor pitching performance and the bats didn't produce.
Luckily, they get another shot at the White Sox on Tuesday, in the night game of the day-night doubleheader. These aren't must-win games yet, but the team is well aware they can't afford to keep snowballing down the standings.
"We felt real good coming into this series," Damon said. "We knew we are playing the division leader. We know this is a big series. It still is. This is one game and we need to try and forget about it. They came out and hammered every single pitch. But I'm not ready to pack it in. We've got to beat this team. We can't have bad performances like that. It stinks when you see the other team on the other side smiling because they are kicking your butt. That's not a good feeling. Hopefully we pick up that spark and get it going for the second game because this first game was definitely embarrassing."
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.