BOSTON -- As his two-seamer darted from corner to corner, Rick Porcello registered a career-high 13 strikeouts on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. Though it came in a 3-1 loss to the Yankees, the development was quite encouraging to the Red Sox in the big picture.
They've invested enough money in Porcello from 2016-19 ($82.5 million) to hope deeply that this season (6-12, 5.21 ERA) was an aberration.
When Porcello does what he did Tuesday, it's easier to envision him being a cornerstone in the coming years.
Nine of Porcello's strikeouts were looking. He nearly doubled his previous high (seven) for strikeouts this season.
"It's just the late movement that I've been looking for all year, really," said Porcello. "That's it. And then just locating it and executing the pitches. To me, the biggest thing tonight was getting ahead of hitters, establishing strike one. That sets up the entire at-bat."
Sometimes, the most telling statements are the ones that come from the other dugout.
"Our guys said he had as much comeback in his movement on his fastball as they've ever seen," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "He was really good at front-hipping our left-handers and they said they hadn't seen his ball move like that before. We knew he had good sink, but they said it was huge tonight."
Of the three runs Porcello allowed over eight innings, just one was earned. In two starts since coming off the disabled list, Porcello has allowed one earned run over 15 innings, walking one and striking out 18.
"This year, it's definitely the best, most consistent stuff I've had," said Porcello.
Look for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to go out and do what it takes to get an ace this winter. But having two relatively young power arms pitch like Porcello and Joe Kelly have of late bodes well for the depth of the rotation going forward.
"He's throwing the fastball to both sides of the plate," said interim manager Torey Lovullo. "From where I was in the dugout, I could see it had an angle. I know there were a number of called strikeouts, called-third-strike strikeouts, and that just shows you how locked in he was. He's hitting spots with a little bit of movement and deception."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.