Rick Porcello’s troubles continue as Red Sox lose bid to tie for first place in AL East

HOUSTON — Coming off his Cy Young performance last season, Rick Porcello is a league leader again this year.

He has given up the most hits and is tied for the most losses.

Last night was loss No. 9 for the Red Sox’ Opening Day starter. He was hit early, hit hard and hit often, continuing a trend that has dogged him all season and leaving the Sox with a 7-1 loss to the league-best Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

“I’m not surprised,” Porcello said. “This is the big leagues. They’re just as good as anyone else. You’re playing against the best players in the world. When you’re not sharp and you’re not on your game, this is what happens.”

Given a chance to pull into a tie for first place in the AL East with the New York Yankees, the Red Sox were instead reminded that Porcello is no longer the winningest pitcher in baseball, as he was last season.

The Sox have won just four of Porcello’s past 13 starts, and he has won just once in the past month. All seven Houston runs were charged to the right-hander.

“The difference once again is elevation in the strike zone,” manager John Farrell said. “It wasn’t pitch type. Any time he made a mistake up in the strike zone, whether it’s a breaking ball to (Jose) Altuve to a fastball that didn’t stay in or down to (Carlos) Beltran, those are pitches that seem to come back to haunt him.”

At times this season, it’s been possible — and perfectly viable — to attribute some of Porcello’s losses to a lack of run support. Last night marked the fifth time this season that he started a game in which the Red Sox were held to one run or fewer.

But much of Porcello’s record is also self-inflicted. At the current pace, his 5.05 ERA will be the highest of his career, even worse than the 4.92 posted in his disappointing Red Sox debut in 2015.

“I can’t say it’s dissimilar,” Farrell said.

For the fifth time this season, Porcello allowed double-digit hits. Four of those 10-hits-or-more…

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