CLEVELAND -- It was a situation Rick Porcello hadn't endured for more than two months, and the timing couldn't have been worse for the Red Sox.
For the first time since July 24, Porcello didn't deliver a quality start, and it hurt the Red Sox en route to a 5-4 loss Thursday at Progressive Field in Game 1 of their American League Division Series against the Indians.
The right-hander, one of the leading candidates for the AL Cy Young Award, turned in his shortest start of the season, lasting just 4 1/3 innings. The five earned runs allowed tied a season high. And it snapped Porcello's impressive streak of 13 straight quality starts.
"It's tough," Porcello said. "You go out there and give up five runs. That's never how you want to start a playoff series off. The good thing is we've got tomorrow and there are four games left in this thing, so we'll bounce back [Friday] and get after it."
The one thing manager John Farrell made sure not to do was spend his bullpen. Drew Pomeranz won't be available on Friday after going 2 1/3 innings and throwing 50 pitches. Two other relievers -- Joe Kelly and Koji Uehara -- combined for just 16 pitches.
Behind David Price in Game 2 on Friday (4:30 p.m. ET on TBS), the Red Sox will try to send the series to Boston with a split.
For Porcello, most of the damage was done in a downright jarring third inning, in which the Indians tagged Porcello for three solo home runs, a sequence in which Progressive Field felt like it was shaking from its foundation. The first homer was off the bat of No. 9 hitter Roberto Perez in his first career postseason at-bat. After a groundout by Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor smoked back-to-back solo shots.
Porcello explained the lowlights calmly, in much the same way he's discussed all of his success this season.
"With a 3-2 pitch against Perez, didn't want to walk him," Porcello said. "Came after him with a fastball. He hit it out of the ballpark. It is what it is there. Situation with Kipnis was just a bad pitch. It was elevated in the zone. Gave him a good pitch to handle after an 0-1 count. Really don't want to give him something that he can drive there, let alone hit out of the ballpark.
"Changeup to Lindor -- I've thrown that pitch a lot this year. Haven't really got hurt by it. Got hurt by it there. You kind of spin it however you want to spin it. I threw the pitches that I thought were going to be the best pitches to throw, and they hit three balls out of the ballpark."
This wasn't the type of tone Porcello, who led the Majors with 22 wins this season, hoped to set for the Red Sox.
But his teammates expressed confidence that it was just a setback, not a damaging blow.
"It happens, man. He ain't perfect," David Ortiz said. "He's a human being just like everyone else. He left a couple pitches on the plate, and unfortunately that's what happened. But he's human."
Porcello's strength is keeping the ball down. It betrayed him in Game 1.
"It was a combination of pitches up in the strike zone and a night where this ballpark played extremely small," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Warm weather, the ball was carrying a lot. Uncharacteristic for Rick to be up in the strike zone as much as he was."
Now, Porcello hopes for a chance to redeem himself in a potential winner-take-all Game 5. Well, he kind of hopes for that chance.
"Hopefully we win this series in the next three games, but if I get an opportunity in the fifth game, I'll try to rectify the mistakes I made," Porcello said.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.