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Porcello's playoff debut ends in disappointment

Porcello's playoff debut ends in disappointment

Porcello's playoff debut ends in disappointment
DETROIT -- Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello was definitely hoping for better results in the first playoff game of his career, with his father, Fred, in attendance at Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Tuesday night.

The New Jersey native set the Yankees down in order in the first two innings at Comerica Park. Good enough. But the Yankees scored twice against Porcello in both the third and fifth innings on their way to a 10-1 win as the Tigers bullpen didn't fare any better.

The best-of-five series is tied 2-2 with a climactic Game 5 at Yankee Stadium slated for Thursday night at 8 ET on TBS. Doug Fister will be on the mound for the Tigers against Ivan Nova of the Yankees in a rematch of Game 1-plus starters.

"This isn't the scenario we wanted -- to have to go on the road -- but I think we're up for it," Porcello said after his six-inning, five-hit and four-run performance. "We wanted to take this one in Detroit and win it in front of everybody here. But it is what it is. We've got to get ready to play on Thursday, get ready to go."

Porcello is 22 years old and has made 90 big league starts in a little less than three seasons, but no bigger one than on Tuesday night. He had hoped to match teammate Max Scherzer's spectacular two-hit performance in a Game 2 win on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. But that wasn't to be.

The game might have turned out differently had Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson failed to peddle back fast enough on a sharp liner hit by Don Kelly with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning. The former Tiger broke in, misjudging the ball, but recovered quickly enough to make what turned out to be a game-saving, fadeaway catch.

In the sixth, he did it again with a runner on first and two outs, diving flat out to grab a shot smacked by Jhonny Peralta in left-center to end the inning.

"Those were pretty spectacular plays, the second one especially," Porcello said. "He just went all out on that and it was an incredible catch. He's obviously having a heck of a year and he is who is for a reason."

Porcello was 14-9 this year, matching his 2009 rookie season. But Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager, said his young pitcher still has a lot to learn. Consistency is the name of the game. Porcello had his best month of the year in July, when he went 5-0 with a 3.06 ERA. That ERA figure more than doubled to 6.82 in August, and he was 3-3 the rest of the way.

The last two months were much like Porcello's performance on Tuesday night: Inconsistent.

"Really, I think he threw the ball great," said Tigers third baseman Bradon Inge, who watched the game intently on Tuesday night from his place on the bench. "I'm taking it off Porcello. If [Kelly's] ball happens to drop in the first inning, it's a whole different ballgame. Otherwise, [the Yankees] just happened to capitalize on a couple of balls that were up. That was the big difference."

One of those balls was a two-run double rapped by Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter in the third inning. The other was another RBI double crushed in the fifth by Granderson. Yeah, that guy again. Jeter was 0-for-10 against Porcello before the double gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead.

"I was looking for a good pitch to hit," Jeter said. "Porcello, I haven't had too much success off him. I saw that on the scoreboard, actually, right before that pitch. I don't know why I looked up there, but I saw that. He's been throwing the ball extremely well. Fortunately for me, he left one up. I'm sure it was a mistake on his part."

To be sure, Porcello wasn't completely disappointed with the way he pitched. He did much better two years ago, starting a tiebreaker Game 163 for the Tigers in the Metrodome. Porcello pitched into the sixth inning, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out eight. He left with two outs after allowing a Jason Kubel homer and walking Michael Cuddyer, his team leading, 3-2. It wasn't his fault that the Tigers lost, 6-5, in 12 innings.

This time, the Tigers were down, 4-1, when Porcello was replaced after tossing 85 pitches in six innings. Three middle relievers were responsible for the six-spot the Yankees put up on the board in the eighth as they sent 11 men to the plate.

"For the most part, I pitched very well," Porcello said. "Obviously that slider up to Jeter was a bad pitch. A guy like that is going to take advantage of it. On Granderson, it was just one of those pitches that leaped back across the plate just enough for him to get some barrel on it and rip it down the line. He did a good job there. I've got to tip my cap to him.

"But other than that, we were able to keep them at bay and give us a chance to win the game."

Barry M. Bloom is 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.

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