KANSAS CITY -- Among the many Tigers basking in the clubhouse celebration was starter Rick Porcello, who had a good reason to party. Detroit's American League Central-clinching win on Monday was also his first victory since Aug. 7.
It didn't solve the question of what has gone on with his fastball velocity in the middle innings of his last few starts, but with five-plus innings and only an Alex Gordon homer on his scoring line, Porcello at least ended his regular season on a high note.
Porcello was firing fastballs consistently at 94 mph the first couple innings, topping out at 95. His velocity gradually dropped from there until Gordon's sixth-inning home run came off a 90-mph fastball.
Porcello and catcher Gerald Laird geared their game plan expecting a drop like that.
"To be honest with you, because I've been fatiguing earlier in the game, our plan was to go out there and keep the ball down and not worry about velocity and that sort of thing," Porcello said. "Once I got a runner on in the first inning, I kind of [gave up] that and just went up there and threw everything I had. It worked out. I'm just really happy we got the win."
While Porcello's fastball is puzzling, it shouldn't be a pressing concern for the Tigers as long as Max Scherzer is ready to start in the Division Series. The Tigers are expected to start Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez alongside Scherzer, which would leave Drew Smyly and possibly Porcello as relievers.
In shorter outings from the bullpen, Porcello's middle-inning velocity is highly unlikely to be a factor.