The Tigers defeated the Royals 8-2 last night thanks, in part, to the pitching of right hander Rick Porcello. Porcello limited the Royals to two runs on four hits and no bases on balls in seven innings. The performance lowered his season ERA to 3.66 and FIP to 3.34 and he has walked just 4 batters in 32 innings.
Porcello did not rely so much on his trademark sinker last night using it on just 23% percent of his pitches. Instead, he threw 36% fourseam fastballs, 30% breaking pitches and 11% changeups according to BrooksBaseball.net. The result was just seven outs on ground balls which is usually a bad sign for someone who doesn't strike out a lot of batters. Last night though, Porcello racked up six strikeouts and generally prevented strong contact thanks to a nasty curve and effective fastball.
The Royals loaded up with five left-handed batters which is typically a smart strategy versus Porcello who is notoriously bad versus batters of opposite handedness. His lefty/righty splits were .603/.806 OPS in 2013 and .603/.806 in 2012 for example. Last night though, he held left-handed batters to 1 hit and 4 strikeouts in 13 at bats.
Of Porcello's 61 pitches to left-handed batters, 25 were fast balls and 13 were curves. The linear weights values (negative numbers are good) on the two pitches were -0.91 and -0.96 respectively. The chart below shows that Porcello did a did fine job of keeping his pitches down and/or off the plate. You can see that the curves in particular were in locations that were near impossible to hit.
Data source: BrooksBaseball.net
So, Porcello had no trouble versus left-handed hitters last night and has actually handled them pretty well for the season sporting a .659/.689 L/R split in a realtively small sample. The 25-year-old veteran still has only 6.2 strikeouts per nine innings overall, but if he can continue to limit the damage versus lefties, he can take a step forward this year.