CLEVELAND -- There's never a good time to give up three homers in the span of four hitters. Ever.
But Rick Porcello happened to pick the worst possible time imaginable.
The Red Sox' most consistent and reliable starter all season had earned the right to make the ALDS Game 1 start. Nothing in his recent history suggested that he was going to have an inning like the one he had in the third.
Roberto Perez, homer to right.
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Carlos Santana, groundout to second.
Jason Kipnis, homer to right.
Francisco Lindor, homer to right.
"That's never,'' conceded Porcello, "how you want to start a playoff series.''
In a matter of minutes, Porcello gave up as many homers as he had in his previous seven starts combined. Put another way, he gave up as many homers in a third of an inning as he had in his last 50 1/3 innings to finish the season.
"It was a combination of pitches up in the strike zone,'' said John Farrell, "and a night where this ballpark played extremely small. [It's] uncharacteristic for Rick to be up in the strike zone as much as he was.''
The irony, of course, is that Porcello had such success this season by pounding the ball down in the strike zone, inducing ground balls and weak contact.
The pitches to Perez and Kipnis were fastballs up in the zone. For Lindor, the pitch in question was a changeup.
"You can spin it however you want to spin it,'' said a discouraged Porcello. "I threw the pitches that I thought were going to be the best pitches to throw and they hit three balls out of the ballpark.''
To his credit, Porcello didn't want to hear about how well the ball was carrying or how small the park was playing on an unseasonably warm night which produced a record-tying six homers.
"They hit those balls good,'' he said. "It is what it is. They went out of the ballpark. That's the bottom line, so I've got to do a better job of limiting that.''
This was a game in which the Red Sox were supposed to have a decided edge in the pitching matchup. Trevor Bauer was a back-end starter who might not have started at all this series had the Indians
been fully healthy with Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar available to them.
As it was Bauer couldn't get out of the fifth. But when he did leave, the Indians already had a lead they wouldn't relinquish in what eventually became a 5-4 victory.
And Porcello himself seemed to figure a few things out when he came back for the fourth and retired the side in order with two strikeouts.
Another byproduct of Porcello's poor start is that puts added pressure on the Game 2 starter, David Price, who, as you may have heard, has never won a postseason start.
If that doesn't change Friday -- or, at the very least, he doesn't pitch well enough to give his team a chance to win -- the Red Sox will be facing the unenviable task of having to win three in a row to win the series.
Either Porcello or Price would be available to pitch that Game 5, but that's for later.
Meanwhile, the Sox can only look back and lament a Game 1 loss that happened precisely because they couldn't capitalize on what they thought was a pitching matchup in their favor.