DETROIT -- The first thing you need to know about Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello is that his mother and father were big Yankees fans.
"My mom loves Derek Jeter," Porcello said with a grin on Monday. "She might like him more than she likes me."
Things have changed, Porcello insists, since those days growing up in New Jersey when Fred and Pat used to pull him out of school on occasion to attend games at Yankee Stadium. When Porcello takes the mound for the Tigers in Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Comerica Park on Tuesday night, he said he's sure where the allegiance of his parents will lie.
"I think they're pretty much committed to rooting for me and the Tigers right now," he said. "I don't think they watch many Yankees games anymore. But leading up to my professional career, they were Yankees fans."
Key stat: 1.5 HRs per nine innings is highest of his 13-year career.
Key stat: 3.55 ERA in five September starts.
At Comerica Park
2011: 1 GS, 0-1, 2.57 Career: 4 GS, 2-2, 7.17
2011: 14 GS, 5-5, 5.64 ERA Career: 44 GS, 20-13, 4.59 ERA
Against this opponent
2011: 2 GS, 1-1, 3.75 Career: 8 GS, 4-2, 6.33 ERA
2011: 1 GS, 1-0, 2.57 ERA Career: 4 GS, 2-2, 5.56 ERA
Loves to face.: Delmon Young, 3-for-15 Hates to face: Victor Martinez, 7-for-27
Loves to face: Mark Teixeira, 1-for-10 Hates to face: Robinson Cano, 5-for-11
Why he'll win: Current Tigers are batting .239 against him with a .333 on-base percentage.
Why he'll win: Comerica Park should be electric for the Tigers' first home playoff game in five years.
Pitcher beware: Has just three wins since the All-Star break.
Pitcher beware: Has never pitched in the postseason before.
Bottom line: Keep the ball in the yard.
Bottom line: Don't pitch to Cano.
Porcello said he won't be at any cross purposes, either. After all, he was a Mets fan growing up in Morris County for no better reason than it seemed like the right thing to do. The Yankees were never really in his blood system.
"I always liked the fact that [the Mets] were more of an underdog in New York," Porcello said. "I don't know, I got hooked on them and that was my team."
Porcello is 22 years old and has made 89 big league starts in a little less than three seasons. One of them was the big tiebreaker Game 163 against the Twins to determine the 2009 AL Central title. No. 90 will be his first in the playoffs. He was a star high school pitcher when the Tigers selected him in the first round and 27th overall in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
Max Scherzer's spectacular two-hit start in Game 2 on Sunday at Yankee Stadium was just the 102nd of his career and could be used as a blueprint for what Porcello can accomplish on Tuesday.
"Obviously, I'm champing at the bit to get out there," Porcello said. "I'm definitely excited. Watching Max throw the ball the way he did was big for our team. I'm ready to go. I want to get out there and show everybody what I can do. Most importantly, show my team what I can do, and try and help us move on to the next round."
Porcello was 14-9 this year, matching his 2009 rookie season. But if you listen to Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager said his young pitcher still has a lot to learn. Consistency is the name of the game. Porcello had his best month of the year in July, when he went 5-0 with a 3.06 ERA. That ERA figure more than doubled to 6.82 in August, and he was 3-3 the rest of the way.
Leyland likes to use an undergraduate class system when he rates players. This is his assessment of Porcello:
"I always say you can't make a senior out of a freshman," he said. "He's probably a junior now."
Still, that didn't stop Leyland from giving Porcello the postseason start and placing the veteran Brad Penny in the bullpen.
"I think he's been a little bit of a Jekyll and Hyde," said Leyland, further defining Porcello. "A little slow at times. He's still adjusting to this whole scenario, there's no question about that -- figuring out big league hitters, figuring out how to calm down, figuring out how to have just enough adrenaline and not too much adrenaline. He's figuring it all out, and it's a process."
In that tiebreaker game in the Metrodome two years ago, Porcello pitched into the sixth inning, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out eight. Porcello left with two outs and his team leading, 3-2, after allowing a Jason Kubel homer and walking Michael Cuddyer. It wasn't his fault that the Tigers lost, 6-5, in 12 innings.
That game wasn't exactly a postseason tilt, but it was close enough, and Porcello said he hopes to draw from that experience on Tuesday night.
"Just dealing with the atmosphere, remembering what that was like is going to help a little bit for tomorrow," Porcello said. "And having a little bit of experience in a playoff-type atmosphere should help going into it. This time around, it's on our home turf, so I'll have that going for me. It will be a little bit easier than pitching on the road."
And this time it will be against the Yankees, a team of Porcello's childhood memories.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.