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There’s not as much steam on Rick Porcello’s four-seam fastball

Rick Porcello is finding ways to win despite losing a bit of velocity on his four-seam fastball.
Rick Porcello is finding ways to win despite losing a bit of velocity on his four-seam fastball. (Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)

If Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello’s four-seam fastball looked anything but fast Monday, your eyes did not deceive you.

It averaged 90.6 miles per hour in the series opener against the Blue Jays, the sixth-slowest average velocity in one game for Porcello over the past five years.

Two of the bottom three average velocities on that list of 146 games have come in 2019.

It’s certainly not the direction Porcello wants to head in, but he is still finding ways to tally wins. He gave up eight hits, four earned runs, and a home run while striking out only two Toronto batters as he emerged with his second consecutive win.

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“I don’t really think it’s the four-seamer that’s the problem,” Porcello said. “It’s lack of execution.”

The two-run homer Porcello gave up to Billy McKinney in the top of the second inning was off a two-seam fastball. But the hit that brought Toronto within one in the third inning came from a 90.6 m.p.h. four-seam fastball.

His overall 91.2 mile-per-hour average velocity on his four-seam fastball this season is Porcello’s slowest over the past five years.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora remains confident Porcello can carve up lineups despite the slower four-seam fastball.

“It’s just a matter of executing pitches and mixing up the offspeed and his changeup,” Cora said. “He got away from it a little bit there a few weeks ago. Now he is back using his breaking ball early in counts. Gotta keep working.”

Porcello threw 30 four-seam fastballs against the Blue Jays, only four of which were called strikes. Four were foul balls, and two were swinging strikes.

The Blue Jays put eight of those 30 four-seam fastballs into play, the most of any pitch.

He threw a variety of pitches Monday as he tried to navigate a rocky start. He tossed 29 two-seam fastballs, 24 curveballs, 15 sliders, 13 changeups, and one cutter over six innings of work.

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Porcello was not ready to call it a searching process, though.

“I would say going out there trying to make pitches,” Porcello said. “Some of them were a little flat, some of them weren’t quite where I wanted them to be. Had to make some adjustments from there.”

Cora was pleased with how Porcello responded to his struggles over the first three innings. Porcello gave up four earned runs and six hits over that span. Then he tightened up and allowed only two more hits over the next three innings of the outing.

Porcello improves to 7-7 on the season with the win. However, he has given up 21 earned runs over his past four starts after blanking Minnesota on June 17.

Fortunately for Porcello, the Boston bats showed up Monday, as they did in Detroit when he gave up six earned runs on July 6.

“I can’t say enough about our offense, man,” Porcello said. “Unbelievable.”