This weekend, the main story surrounding a major league starting pitcher breaking a “curse” was when postseason Clayton Kershaw finally looked like vintage Clayton Kershaw. In Game 2 of the NLDS, he threw eight scoreless innings against the Braves in the best postseason start of his career.
A lesser known — if not unknown — curse that was broken on Saturday was the Curse of Rick Porcello, a totally real curse that I am not making up right here on the spot for the sake of an article.
While, yes, I did make that up, the reality of the situation deserves a second look. Prior to his appearance in the Red Sox’s Game 1 ALDS win against the Yankees, Rick Porcello had never pitched in a postseason win. I’m serious. Porcello had made 11 career postseason appearances, and it never mattered whether he was starting or pitching in relief, his team just always lost.
That’s right. Porcello — who had made at least one pitching appearance in the 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017 postseasons — never could say that he contributed to a playoff win. This reigned true across organizations, too. Prior to yesterday, Porcello had pitched in eight playoff losses for the Detroit Tigers and three for the Boston Red Sox.
Sometimes, the losses weren’t always his fault. Other times, they were. Let’s break it down.
The losses that weren’t Rick Porcello’s fault
2017 ALDS Game 1 - Astros 8, Red Sox 2
Porcello pitched a clean 8th inning, but the Red Sox were already down by six runs.
2013 ALDS Game 2 - Athletics 1, Tigers 0
Porcello did give up this walk-off RBI single to Stephen Vogt to lose the game, but it was hard to expect any other outcome with him coming into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 9th:
Porcello pitched a clean 8th inning, but the Tigers were down 8-1 when he entered.
2012 ALDS Game 3 - Athletics 2, Tigers 0
Porcello came in during the 8th inning to face Yoenis Cespedes, who flew out. The Tigers were already down 2-0.
2011 ALCS Game 6 - Rangers 15, Tigers 5
Porcello entered in the 3rd inning of this game, but the Tigers were already down 5-2 before he allowed four more runs in the inning. He solidified the loss, sure, but he wasn’t the main reason for it.
2011 ALCS Game 4 - Rangers 7, Tigers 3 (11 innings)
Porcello got the starting nod for this game, but he only allowed three runs (two earned) over 6 2⁄3 innings. Sure, when he exited the game, the Rangers were up 3-2, but the Tigers bailed him out in the bottom of the seventh with a Brandon Inge home run. The bullpen is mainly at fault here, with Nelson Cruz’s three-run home run in the 11th off of Jose Valverde basically sealing the fate of this one.
2011 ALCS Game 1 - Rangers 3, Tigers 2
By win probability added, this was actually Porcello’s most successful postseason outing of his career. He pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Justin Verlander — going six up and six down — in order to keep the score at 3-2. Unfortunately for him, the Tigers were unable to complete their comeback.
The losses that were Rick Porcello’s fault
2017 ALDS Game 4 - Astros 5, Red Sox 4
In a pivotal Game 4, facing elimination, the Red Sox turned to start Porcello, who only was able to record nine outs before being pulled in favor of Chris Sale. Sure, while that may have been the plan all along, Porcello’s ineffectiveness on the mound kept the Red Sox from getting any length out of him. This potentially cost them the game.
2016 ALDS Game 1 - Indians 5, Red Sox 4
There’s not much else to point out here other than the fact that Porcello allowed all five of the Indians’ runs.
2013 ALCS Game 2 - Red Sox 6, Tigers 5 - Porcello pitched for Detroit
Porcello entered the game to pitch the bottom of the 9th against Boston. A single by Jonny Gomes started off the rally. He advanced to second on an error and to third on a wild pitch. Then Jarrod Saltalamacchia (remember him?) singled to left, walking it off for the Red Sox. Porcello allowed the winning run to score without recording an out.
2011 ALDS Game 4 - Yankees 10, Tigers 1
Porcello came out of the game with the Yankees up 4-1, and it didn’t get any better for the Tigers from there. He went six innings and allowed four runs in this start.
The lone win
2018 ALDS Game 1 - Red Sox 5, Yankees 4
After all of these heartbreaks for Porcello, he finally came through to pitch in a win. Sure, he only recorded two outs on Friday, but he served as the final bridge to Craig Kimbrel, who was able to shut the door on the Yankees in Game 1.
The “Rick Porcello Curse” has finally been broken.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.