Last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner is this year’s major league leader in losses — and that’s not the only reason Rick Porcello’s 2017 stat line is noteworthy.
If Boston wins the AL East, Porcello (10-17) will have at least tied the mark for the most losses by a pitcher for a division champion. Since divisional play began in 1969, only three other pitchers have had 17 defeats for a team that finished first — and they all did it back in the 1970s, when starters were used differently and could rack up huge numbers of decisions.
— In 1978, Kansas City’s Dennis Leonard went 21-17 with a 3.33 ERA to help the Royals win the AL West. Leonard made 40 starts, threw 20 complete games and was third in the league in strikeouts.
— In 1974, Oakland’s Ken Holtzman was 19-17 with a 3.07 ERA. The Athletics won the last of their three straight World Series titles.
— In 1973, Baltimore’s Dave McNally went 17-17 with a 3.21 ERA. The Orioles won the AL East.
(The above list does not include players who split time between more than one team in a year. For example, Albie Lopez lost 19 games in 2001 and finished the season with the World Series champion Diamondbacks, but a majority of his defeats that year came with Tampa Bay.)
Porcello’s biggest problem this season has been home runs. He’s allowed 35, which is 10 more than his previous career high. The other major issue is his run support of 4.18 runs per nine innings. That’s the lowest mark of his career and not the type of figure you’d expect for somebody pitching for a first-place team. Porcello pitched 7 1/3 innings Saturday, allowing no earned runs in a win over Tampa Bay . It was one of his best outings of the season.
Boston has a three-game lead over the New York Yankees atop the division.