Xander Bogaerts may have given the Red Sox a 2-1 walkoff win in the 11th inning, but the game reached that point largely thanks to a pitcher’s duel between two former teammates — Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander.
Porcello had one of his strongest starts of the season in his first game against his former team, going seven innings and giving up just one run on five hits. He also struck out six and didn’t surrender a walk.
“I always assume when a player plays against a team that traded him away that they’re going to have a little extra incentive,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Meanwhile, Porcello said the motivation was just to get Boston back in the win column after eight straight losses — seven since the All-Star break.
“Couple of the guys that I was facing I played with for a while,” Porcello said. “But really I think it was just about us coming off of seven losses in a row [on the road]. And we needed that win bad so, leave it out there.”
Verlander, who came in 0-3 with a 6.62 ERA, also shined with his longest outing of the season, going eight innings and giving up one run on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
Verlander and Porcello played together in Detroit from 2009 to 2014 before Porcello was traded to Boston last December for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and righthanders Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier.
Even after the loss, Verlander said it was fun to pitch against Porcello.
“Now that it’s done,” Verlander said. “Obviously it’s pretty cool, [after] playing with him for a while.”
While they don’t talk frequently, Verlander said he and Porcello have texted a handful of times since the trade. And there was no time for Verlander to peek at what Porcello was throwing Friday either.
“Obviously you have a feel of what he’s doing, but it’s not like I’m thinking, ‘Oh, Ricky’s doing this,’ ” Verlander said. “No, that’s not what I was thinking. I’m thinking, ‘OK, he’s pitching well and runs aren’t going to be easy. So I got to keep them off the board.’ ”
Alex Avila, Porcello’s former catcher, went 1 for 3 against him Friday. He said it was a little strange to face Porcello and that the two will talk at some point during the weekend.
“Knowing him and myself, we weren’t going to talk before [Friday’s game],” Avila said. “Especially it being the first game. I didn’t want to do that. But, we’ll get together after.”
In April, Porcello and the Red Sox agreed to a four-year, $82.5 million contract extension. But he’s struggled this season. Even after Friday’s outing, he has a 5.51 ERA and 5-10 record on the season.
Porcello is in the middle of his worst season since 2010, when he had a 4-8 record and 5.55 ERA on July 24. He finished the year 10-12 with a 4.92 ERA.
But Sox manager John Farrell was impressed with what he saw from Porcello on Friday.
“I thought tonight, from the fourth inning on, Rick’s fastball was one of the better ones he’s had on the entire year,” Farrell said. “He was really good with his extension, I think it really showed up with some swing-and-miss to his changeup. . . . He was very good.”
Porcello said the outing was all about execution.
“Just getting back to being myself,” Porcello said. “Attacking guys with the fastball and executing pitches. That’s the biggest thing.”