Red Sox: Rick Porcello tosses club’s second immaculate inning of 2017

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 23: Rick Porcello
ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 23: Rick Porcello /

Boston Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello recorded an immaculate inning in Wednesday night’s victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Rick Porcello hit a couple of rough patches near the end of his latest outing for the Boston Red Sox, but the fifth inning couldn’t have been any cleaner.

The right-hander struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth inning, using only nine pitches to retire the three Tampa Bay Rays he faced in the frame. Porcello sent Trevor Plouffe and Wilson Ramos down swinging before freezing Mallex Smith with a fastball inside for a called third strike.

The immaculate inning was only the 89th in baseball history and fourth in franchise history. Pedro Martinez was the first Red Sox pitcher to achieve the rare accomplishment in 2002 against the Seattle Mariners. Boston’s pitching staff would not produce another immaculate inning for a decade, when Clay Buchholz did it in 2012 against the Baltimore Orioles.

While an immaculate inning had only occurred twice in franchise history entering this season, Porcello is the second Red Sox pitcher to do it in 2017. Craig Kimbrel completed an immaculate ninth inning on May 11 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

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This was the eighth immaculate inning in the majors this season, the most ever in a single season. The previous record of seven was set in 2014. Porcello is the fifth American League pitcher to do it this season, with the other three occurring in the National League.

While the uptick in immaculate innings in recent years may seem an anomaly, it’s not all that surprising giving the rapidly rising strikeout rates across the majors. The league-average strikeout rate has reached record heights, increasing each year since 2006.

The Rays have been among the biggest offenders contributing to the rising strikeout rates. Tampa Bay owns a 25.3 K%, tied for the second highest in the majors. That figure can’t completely be chalked up to the misfortune of facing Chris Sale four times.

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The immaculate inning is the ultimate sign of efficiency for a strikeout pitcher. Porcello isn’t necessarily known as a strikeout pitcher, but he has been fairly efficient, pitching at least six innings in all but one of his starts this season.

Porcello’s issues have primarily stemmed from generosity with the long ball. He’s allowed 28 home runs this season, the second most in the league. Porcello was cruising along through the first five innings, capped by his immaculate frame, before the gopher ball bit him again. He coughed up a pair of homers in the sixth inning that briefly gave the Rays life. Porcello was lifted after allowing a single and a walk to lead off the seventh, after which Boston’s bullpen ensured no further damage would be done.

This season has been a significant step back from last year’s Cy Young campaign, but it hasn’t been all bad news. He’s earned the win in each of his last two starts as part of an eight-game winning streak that has vaulted the Red Sox back to the top of the division.

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On top of that, Porcello can now add his name to the record books. Even if the immaculate inning is becoming a bit more common these days, it’s still rare enough to be proud of the accomplishment.