The American League Cy Young race is so close that you could make a credible case for a different pitcher each day, and today's pitcher of the moment could be Boston's Rick Porcello. The right-hander has demonstrated exactly why former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington invested in him -- amid much criticism at the time -- by serving as a steady plow horse for a staff that has had a lot of uncertainty and inconsistency.
Porcello contributed a seven-inning, three-run outing Monday in a Red Sox win, and by the end of the night he ranked third in the AL in innings pitched, behind only teammate David Price and the Tigers' Justin Verlander, and he's 10th in ERA (3.26) and third in WHIP (1.04). Because Porcello generates more ground balls than strikeouts, he typically doesn't rate well in the defense-independent numbers. But on a team graced by good defenders at shortstop, second base, center field and right field, his style works well. He doesn't allow much and the Red Sox usually score a lot, which is how Porcello is 18-3; Boston is 20-7 in the games he has started, and 53-51 in all others.
Some notes from the Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN Stats & Information about Porcello:
From Elias: Porcello became the fifth pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to win his first 13 home decisions in a season. Before Dallas Keuchel finished 15-0 at home last season, the last two to do so were both Red Sox pitchers, Boo Ferris in 1946 and Tex Hughson in 1944. The only other pitcher to accomplish the feat was Larry Benton for the New York Giants in 1928.
Porcello is the first 18-game winner in the majors this season. Since the Cy Young Award was first introduced in 1956, four of the six Red Sox pitchers to lead the majors in victories went on to win the award.
He's 13-0 with a 3.03 ERA, 7.0 K/BB rate and .243 batting average-against at Fenway Park this season. Before this season, Porcello had struggled at Fenway, including a 7-8 record, 4.65 ERA, 3.9 K/BB ratio and .280 opponents' batting average.
And despite his record, Porcello has been far from dominant in Boston this season. He's getting plenty of run support and assistance in the field this year.
Pedroia has been really impressive, as Nick Cafardo writes.
• On Monday's podcast: Jayson Stark on AL East cannibalism, the surging Royals and the A.J. Ellis/Carlos Ruiz trade; Jackie Bradley Jr. on some advice he gave to Mookie Betts; and Todd Radom's uniform and logo quiz.
• The Orioles are today's losers in the AL East steel cage match: They lost to the Blue Jays -- at Camden Yards -- and as Eduardo Encina writes, they're now just one game ahead of Detroit and two games ahead of Kansas City and Houston for the second AL wild-card spot. Chris Tillman is trying to work his way back to the rotation.
• The Dodgers were lit up in Colorado, and Corey Seager was dinged up. L.A.'s lead in the NL West stands at 1½ games. Clayton Kershaw (back) will face hitters Tuesday, writes Andy McCullough, as he tries to work his way back.
• Michael Bonzagni of ESPN Stats & Info sent this along: The top four players according to Wins Above Replacement (WAR) all homered Monday. It's the first day this season all four players homered on the same day. The four:
Mike Trout (8.4 WAR entering Monday): 25th homer of season, marking the fifth 25-homer season of his career. He's the third Angels player to have five 25-homer seasons, joining Tim Salmon (6) and Vladimir Guerrero (5).
Mookie Betts (7.5 WAR): 30th homer of season. He's the third different Red Sox player to hit 30 home runs in a season before his 24th birthday, joining Tony Conigliaro (1965) and Hall of Famer Ted Williams (1939, 1941).
Jose Altuve (7.2 WAR): 22nd homer of season. He had 22 homers in 2014 and 2015 combined. The only other player 5-foot-6 or shorter to hit 22 homers in a season was Hall of Famer Hack Wilson, who did it five times, most recently in 1932.
Josh Donaldson (6.8 WAR): 34th homer of season and his fourth homer in the past two days. He's hitting .444 with a 2.010 OPS and six homers in his past five games.
By the way, FanGraphs' version of WAR has Donaldson in second.