DETROIT (AP)—Now in his fourth season, Rick Porcello has a lot of experience for a 23-year-old.
Detroit hopes he’s finally ready to become one of the game’s elite pitchers.
Porcello threw seven solid innings on a snowy afternoon at Comerica Park, and Detroit’s powerful offense finally broke through in the eighth Tuesday to give the Tigers a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Miguel Cabrera doubled and scored on Prince Fielder’s single, part of a decisive three-run rally.
Porcello allowed two runs and seven hits, working at a comfortable pace in the chilly weather.
“I don’t think I even realized how fast I was going,” Porcello said. “I was throwing strikes and I guess wanted to keep that going.”
Phil Coke (1-0) pitched the eighth in relief of Porcello, and Jose Valverde finished for his first save of the season. Valverde blew a save chance for the first time since 2010 in Thursday’s opener against Boston.
Austin Jackson homered for Detroit, the AL’s last unbeaten team after handing the Rays their first defeat.
Porcello struck out four and walked one in a game that began amid snow flurries with the temperature in the 40s. Although the Tigers scored 26 runs in a three-game sweep of Boston, their starting pitching was already becoming a concern. Doug Fister went on the disabled list with a left side strain, and Max Scherzer couldn’t make it out of the third inning in his start Sunday.
Porcello went 14-9 as a rookie in 2009, but he posted ERAs of 4.92 and 4.75 the last two years. On Tuesday, he settled into a nice rhythm in an encouraging effort.
“He commanded the fastball on both sides of the plate and when he does that, he pitches like he did today,” said Laird, Detroit’s catcher. “Running sinkers in on them and then sinkers away, they didn’t know what to look for. Throwing his offspeed pitches off that, I definitely think it’s a great building point for him.”
Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings. He walked five—one intentionally—and struck out four in his second career regular-season start. The 22-year-old also started a playoff game last year, not long after making his debut.
The Rays intentionally walked Cabrera in the fifth to load the bases for Fielder, and the move worked when he lifted a routine fly to left that ended the inning. With first base open in the eighth, Tampa Bay chose to pitch to Fielder. He singled up the middle off Jake McGee (0-1), and Cabrera lumbered around to score for a 3-2 lead.
“I liked the lefty-lefty matchup with Prince,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “Prince hit the ball in the perfect spot.”
Tampa Bay had gone ahead 2-1 in the seventh on an RBI infield single by Desmond Jennings, but Jackson homered in the bottom half off Moore.
Detroit has won its first four games—three in its final at-bat. The Rays lost for the first time after a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees. It was their first regular-season loss in nine games. They won their last five of 2011 to snatch a surprising playoff berth.
Tampa Bay opened the scoring in the third when Evan Longoria drew a bases-loaded walk. Detroit tied it in the bottom half when Moore’s wild pitch enabled Jackson to score.
“I choked on a changeup and bounced it,” Moore said. “That was just an awful pitch.”
NOTES: Tampa Bay OF Luke Scott missed the game and is day to day with a tight left hamstring. … Tigers manager Jim Leyland said INF Brandon Inge (strained left groin) was heading to Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday night for a rehabilitation assignment. … Leyland also said LHP Adam Wilk will pitch Saturday against the White Sox in Chicago. Detroit had a vacancy in its rotation after Fister went on the DL. … There also was a light snow shower in the fifth inning. … Tampa Bay used a starting pitcher age 30 or younger for a 900th consecutive game, a streak dating to 2006.