Porcello ready for rush of national stage

Porcello ready for rush of national stage

DETROIT -- If Tigers rookie Rick Porcello is a pitcher tiring down the stretch, he sure isn't acting like one. If anything, he might be fighting too much energy.

If he doesn't have adrenaline when he takes the mound Sunday night, it would be a shock.

Whether Porcello was simply shaking off rust from his long break between starts or showing initial signs of fatigue from his innings workload, Sunday will be a new test for him. As the bright lights of national television cover Comerica Park for the ESPN Sunday Night broadcast, Porcello will be pitching with a chance to finish off a four-game series sweep of the White Sox and build the Tigers' lead in the American League Central to four games.

"All three of those games were pretty darn exciting," Porcello said after Saturday's 4-3 comeback victory. "It's a little different feel, especially when you're facing your division rival. It's pretty cool. I haven't really been a part of anything like this, with this intensity. It's exciting. I'm going to go out there [Sunday] and do my part to help us."

The only race Porcello can compare to what he's watching now is high school, when he was trying to pitch his team through the New Jersey state tournament. It had a championship feel to it.

"This is a similar feeling, times 10," Porcello said. "It's magnified. The AL Central is a little bigger than a high school state championship."

Add in a chance for double-digit victories on the year, and it's a pressure-packed outing for the 20-year-old with the scintillating sinker. But he wouldn't have gotten this far without a penchant for answering the pressure.

Another victory will make Porcello just the fourth pitcher since 1987 to win double-digit games at age 20 or younger, joining a group that includes Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia and Rick Ankiel. No Tigers hurler has done it since Dave Rozema in 1977.

Without Porcello's production, the Tigers aren't in a position to lead the division in the first place. His poise in tough games has drawn raves since he earned a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training. When the Tigers took him, they knew they'd have to watch his innings over the course of the season and his arm over the second half.

Now, the second half is here. After Porcello's first start in 2 1/2 weeks saw him give up five runs in as many innings to the Mariners last Tuesday, he goes into Sunday on his normal four days' rest, with a normal routine of work in between outings. He did the same routine he has with each normal turn this year, throwing on the side and working with pitching coach Rick Knapp.

It wasn't fatigue that challenged Porcello his last outing, he said, but speed. The quicker he tried to pitch, the more he seemed to fall out of form.

"There were certain hitters I saw everything mechanical was good, and I looked sharp," Porcello said. "And then other guys, I'd kind of rush to the plate and leave some balls up, which has happened. When I've struggled this year is when I try to get too quick, not just staying back and going easy with it."

Porcello wants easy this time. Considering the setting, the atmosphere and the opportunity, he can be excused if it isn't easy to relax.

Pitching matchup
DET: RHP Rick Porcello (9-6, 4.40 ERA)
Porcello showed the rust of nearly two weeks off when he took the mound Tuesday against the Mariners. He allowed five runs on nine hits and was inconsistent with his pitches. He'll be facing the White Sox for the first time in his career.

CWS: LHP Clayton Richard (3-3, 5.00 ERA)
Richard threw a career-best eight innings Tuesday against the Rays. He exited the game with a 2-1 lead but didn't earn the win after Bobby Jenks blew his third save of the season in the ninth inning. The one run Richard allowed was the fewest since shutting out the Brewers over five innings on June 20. Richard has made two appearances (one start) against the Tigers this season and has struggled. He's surrendered three runs on seven hits and five walks over five innings of work.

The Tigers will be back on national television two Sundays from now. Their Aug. 9 game against the Twins will be the weekly Sunday afternoon broadcast on TBS, though it'll be shown locally on FSN Detroit. Game time remains 1:05 p.m. ET. ... According to Elias Sports Bureau, Justin Verlander became the first Major League starter in 24 years to load the bases with nobody out in the ninth inning or later and get out of it without allowing a run when he pulled off the feat Friday afternoon. Then-Mariners hurlder Mike Moore was the last to do it, on Sept. 16, 1985.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WXYT 1270/97.1 FM

Up next
• Monday: Tigers (Armando Galarraga, 5-8, 4.82) at Rangers (Tommy Hunter, 2-1, 2.17), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Tigers (Lucas French, 1-1, 2.22) at Rangers (Vicente Padilla, 7-5, 4.67), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Tigers (Justin Verlander, 11-5, 3.12) at Rangers (Scott Feldman, 9-3, 3.59), 8:05 p.m. ET

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.