"What happened to them is kind of what's happened to us this year," Leyland said of the Twins after Fielder's three-run homer powered a five-run eighth inning that capped off seven unanswered Tigers runs in a 7-3 win. "They got a bunch of hits and couldn't get that killer one, and in the end, they paid for it."
Not since at least 1918, as far back as the records go, had the Tigers given up 15 hits in a game and escaped with just three runs allowed. Not in that same span, according to baseball-reference.com, had a Major League pitcher given up 12 hits in less than four innings and allowed just three runs, as happened to Rick Porcello on Thursday.
All but one of those hits were singles, including the Ryan Doumit comebacker that hit Porcello on his right biceps and prompted Leyland to pull him from the game with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth. Three of those hits in the fourth stayed in the infield.
By contrast, Fielder's 13th home run of the year was a no-doubt shot off the bat that landed well into the right-field seats as Twins lefty reliever Tyler Robertson asked for a new ball. It was just the second multi-run homer of the year for Fielder, and the first to put the Tigers in front in the fifth inning or later.
That's the kind of instant impact the Tigers were hoping from their lineup. It took a lot of damage control, three innings of shutout relief from Darin Downs, and a little rally to get there.
Fielder didn't want to think about the struggles of the first half, or what's coming up ahead, as he talked after the game. He wanted to stay in the moment.
"I think we should just enjoy right now," he said. "Just enjoy this feeling, because tomorrow's not here yet. So let's enjoy this."
Among those enjoying it was Porcello, who had the kind of day that allows sinkerballers to give managers gray hairs and give box scores that crowded look.
"At this point in my career, I don't really pay attention to my box score after a game," Porcello said, allowing himself a slight chuckle. "The type of pitcher I am, I'm going to give up hits. That doesn't always look great, but the bottom line is we went out there and won the game. That's the most important thing. To split this series and keep us within range of the teams ahead of us."
Only one Tigers pitcher in the last 50 years had allowed that many hits without getting out of the fourth, that being Wil Ledezma during the infamous 2003 season. He gave up seven runs that game, thanks in no small part to three White Sox homers.
Porcello left some sinkers up in the strike zone, but didn't get the ball up in kind except for Doumit's double to the fence with nobody on and two out in the third inning. Add in two runners thrown out at the plate on back-to-back pitches, the second on a Ryan Raburn strike from left field to give Gerald Laird a chance to tag Brian Dozier on the head, and a three-man collision on a popup bunt, and even Leyland called it a "weird game."
Said Porcello: "I'm not going to say it was a bad start. I threw some good pitches that found some holes, that sort of thing. There's not a lot you can do about that. The biggest thing was not getting the bottom half of the order out. Four right-handed hitters in the bottom half of the order should be consistent outs for me."
Meanwhile, Twins starter Scott Diamond held the Tigers hitless the first time through the order, erasing his second-inning walk with a double play. Austin Jackson doubled and scored to open Detroit's offense in the fourth inning before Brennan Boesch doubled in Jhonny Peralta in the fifth.
At that point, the Tigers had less than a third of Minnesota's hit total, but stood within a big hit of tying it. Diamond wouldn't give it to them, retiring nine of his final 10 batters to last seven innings and hand the lead to what had been a surprisingly effective Twins bullpen this series.
Once Jackson snuck a ground ball inside the right-field line for a one-out triple in the eighth off setup man Alex Burnett (2-1), however, the bullpen fell apart. Burnett played to the game plan and tried to get Quintin Berry to chase a breaking balls, throwing five of them in a six-pitch at-bat, but Berry took them all for a walk that put the go-ahead run on base
It also brought up Miguel Cabrera, whom the Twins couldn't contain all series.
"I knew he was the one under pressure, not me," Berry said. "He had to try to make some good pitches to me. He came out flipping stuff up there that luckily was out of the zone, and I was able to lay off it."
Cabrera sent a ground ball through the middle for his seventh hit of the series (and second RBI of the day) to tie the game and bring up Fielder. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire lifted Burnett to bring in the left-handed Robertson, whose second slider hung up, allowing Fielder to drive it into the right-field seats.
"I just hung a slider to him and he did with it what he's supposed to," Robertson said.
Delmon Young added a solo shot -- ruled so after replay overturned the original call of a double -- two pitches later for an insurance run.