MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Porcello ties bow on Cy Young-worthy season

Porcello ties bow on Cy Young-worthy season

BOSTON -- It's David Ortiz's final regular-season series of his career this weekend at Fenway Park, but Rick Porcello, the right-hander who started for the Red Sox on Friday night in a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays, is making his own pitch for attention.

Porcello has been Boston's best starter this season, and by all rights he should be out there on the mound on Thursday when his club opens its American League Division Series against the Indians.

David Price has the big contract, but Porcello has the big numbers. He finished the season at 22-4 with the most wins in the Major Leagues. He was 13-1 at home.

On Friday, Porcello pitched six innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, including Jose Bautista's two-run homer over the Green Monster, but wasn't around to earn the decision. He walked two and whiffed six, his possible AL Cy Young Award-winning season concluding with a 3.15 ERA.

The victory was fueled by a two-run homer from Ortiz, who was unequivocal about the job Porcello has done this season.

"He's the Cy Young, man, he's the Cy Young, no doubt," Big Papi said. "You can put it down like that. What he's been doing this season, his numbers speak for themselves."

Porcello's 22nd victory

Not only that, but the stars and the rotation all seem to be in alignment for Porcello to open the playoffs, with Price slated to start here to close the regular season on Sunday.

Manager John Farrell has four postseason starters in Porcello, Price, Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez, although not necessarily in that order.

"There are a number of things that are still in the balance here," Farrell said. "And we'll get more clarity once we get through Sunday. There's roster decisions still to be had. The opponent is going to have a lot to do with that. I think for the betterment of all and in conversations with [president of baseball operations] Dave [Dombrowski] and [general manager] Mike [Hazen] and others, we know where the areas of decision are, but we're not ready to make those."

To be certain, Price is not a bad choice to open the playoffs, either, but barring rainouts this weekend the chances of him coming back on three days' rest are nil. The left-hander, who signed as a free agent this past offseason for seven years and $217 million, has had a good season. He's 17-9 with a 4.04 ERA after a 7-1 start through the month of May. He then came back to win eight consecutive decisions from Aug. 12-Sept 22, a streak that ended this past Tuesday night when he allowed six runs on 12 hits in a 6-4 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

There's also the matter of Price's 2-7 record and 5.12 ERA in 14 postseason starts for Tampa Bay, Detroit and Toronto. But Porcello has also just been better. He lost twice in May, once in August and once in September.

"I feel good about my body of work this year," said Porcello, who mostly pitched out of the bullpen during the postseason when he was with the Tigers. "More importantly, my consistency has given us a chance to win, providing something you can count on every fifth day. That's what I've been looking to do since I got here."

This is Porcello's second year in Boston after coming over in the Dec. 11, 2014, trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit. And this season has been nothing like the first. Only four months after the deal, Porcello signed a four-year contract extension worth $82.5 million, and went on to have a 9-15 season with a 4.92 ERA in 28 starts.

As Farrell is so fond of saying, playing in Boston takes a rock-solid constitution, and some players have to get used to the fan base and the accruing criticism. It's no understatement to say the knowledgeable Red Sox fans take their baseball very seriously.

"I think every guy that comes in under similar circumstances is going to go through a transition period," Farrell said.

The difference between Porcello in 2015 and '16?

"Well, it all starts with execution," Farrell said. "And what stems from that is his confidence. He's very understanding of who he is as a pitcher. You see the confidence displayed by the pace in which he will execute a game. He works quick. He knows what he wants to do. That's why you look at the numbers he's put up: He works deep into games, [with a] high number of innings and a low number of walks. That's all trust and confidence on his part."

To that point, Porcello pitched 223 innings, with 189 strikeouts and only 32 walks. His WHIP of 1.00 is second best in the AL, a tick behind former Tigers teammate Justin Verlander.

But that's all behind him now. What lies ahead is the postseason on Thursday, and that first start Porcello has so justly earned and deserves.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.