By Evan Brunell
DETROIT -- Up until things unraveled in the sixth inning, the story of Game 4 of the ALCS belonged to Rick Porcello.
Porcello had been the overlooked pitcher this series, with many openly wondering why manager Jim Leyland didn't choose to push Justin Verlander up a day to start Game 4 once his Game 1 start was cut short by rain delay. It was a fair question, but Porcello showed the world what he could do, becoming just the fifth pitcher to allow two earned runs or less at age 22, the last coming way back in 1995 when Bob Wolcott of the Indians stymied the Mariners.
"I thought he pitched a tremendous game for us," Leyland raved after the game.. "This is an excellent lineup. To do what he did to hold them down like he did, I thought he did a tremendous job. I think he threw the ball exceptionally well. I don't think there's any question about that. He gave us what we wanted and probably a little bit more, to be honest with you."
And yet, the Tigers lost the game after the 11th inning blew up in their faces. Porcello was subdued after the game, even as he was coming off one of the best performances of his career, including a filthy slider he said was probably the best he's ever thrown in his major-league career. "I felt good," Porcello admitted. "My slider was pretty sharp."
The only problem was that Porcello unraveled in the sixth inning, paced by David Murphy's 3-for-3 night and getting burned the third time through the order. Porcello's undoing the entire season has been getting through the lineup for the first time with ease, hitters batting just .229 against Porcello, then giving up hits at a .329 clip once the lineup flipped over. Porcello was able to hold Texas down through the second part of the lineup but the third turn wasn't the charm for the righty, as he gave up hits to five of the nine batters seeing him for the second time. Porcello compounded his own troubles by throwing wildly on an attempted pickoff of Elvis Andrus, allowing Andrus to move to second and score the go-ahead run on Michael Young's single, which snapped a slump for Young.
"Nothing changed," Porcello said about what happened the third time through when Texas put up a three-spot to take the lead in a game they would eventually win 7-3 in the 11th inning. "They hit some good pitches, they hit some bad pitches. That's the bottom line."
Unfortunately for Detroit, the bottom line has Texas one win from the World Series, while the Tigers will have to win three in a row.
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