The most frustrating part for Rick Porcello was not that he suffered his first loss since April 19, but that it could have been avoided had he started the fifth inning better.
A pair of walks to open the fifth ignited a nine-run inning for visiting Los Angeles, providing the Angels plenty of breathing room in a 12-5 victory over the Red Sox on Friday night.
The loss was Boston’s third in four games at Fenway Park since returning from a 10-game road trip.
“That was the trouble — the two walks,” Porcello said. “I can live with guys swinging the bat and hitting the ball, but to give them free passes, especially the first two hitters, is unacceptable.”
What began as one of Porcello’s finest starts in a Red Sox uniform quickly turned into his shortest.
The righthander was nearly flawless the first time through the Angels’ lineup. After three innings, the Sox led, 1-0, on Mike Napoli’s fifth home run of the season, and Porcello had thrown 22 strikes in 32 pitches.
But his consistency waned as he began the fourth. His third pitch to Albert Pujols landed three rows deep in the Monster seats.
Porcello surrendered another run in the fourth when David Freese scored on a fielder’s choice.
The Sox reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the third on a two-run double by Brock Holt, but Porcello’s sight suddenly, inexplicably, betrayed him. After painting corners for the first three innings, he couldn’t keep the ball down in the strike zone.
Porcello lost a 2-2 count and walked Johnny Giavotella, the No. 9 hitter, to open the fifth. Erick Aybar then watched three straight balls before taking first on an errant two-seam fastball.
All told, five of six Angels faced by Porcello in the fifth reached base. After Freese delivered an RBI double for a 6-3 lead, manager John Farrell relieved him for Matt Barnes.
“Starting in the fourth inning, [Porcello] started to mislocate some pitches up in the strike zone,” Farrell said. “[He] really started to accelerate in the fifth inning starting with the two leadoff walks. You put men on base with base on balls, extra-base hits, it makes for a quick night.”
By the end of the fifth, Los Angeles had an 11-3 lead and Porcello’s worst start of the season was cemented: seven runs in 4⅓ innings.
Of his final 59 pitches, only 30 were strikes.
“I felt good. We were cruising — the offense did a great job putting up runs against a tough pitcher,” Porcello recalled. “Fifth inning, [I] hit a wall — walked the first two guys and just couldn’t recover from it.”