By NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer
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.READ MORE: Ribs RnB Music Festival Kicks Off This Weekend In Downtown Detroit
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.
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NARROWING IT DOWN?
There may be some more clarity now in the races for the NL Central title and the AL’s second wild card.
The Cubs now lead the NL Central by four games over Milwaukee and six over St. Louis after Chicago swept three straight from the Cardinals. The Cubs aren’t out of the woods yet, but their current six-game winning streak has them looking like clear favorites to return to the playoffs.
Minnesota leads the Los Angeles Angels by two games for the second wild card in the AL, and it’s another 2 ½ back to Seattle. Baltimore has lost nine of 11 and Texas has dropped seven of nine. Those September slides may be too much for those teams to overcome.
Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier couldn’t beat the Red Sox singlehandedly Friday night, but he made them keep playing for a while. Kiermaier made a diving, backhanded catch on the warning track in the ninth inning, had a leaping catch in center field in the 10th and hit a tying home run in the 14th. Boston finally scored seven runs in the 15th to win 13-6.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Detroit’s Matthew Boyd had never thrown a nine-inning complete game as a professional — in the majors or the minors. That changed Sunday when he came within one out of no-hitting the Chicago White Sox. His bid was broken up by Tim Anderson’s double, but Boyd finished with a one-hitter in a 12-0 victory.
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