Prince belts pair of monster homers to pace Tigers

Prince belts pair of monster homers to pace Tigers

Prince belts pair of monster homers to pace Tigers
DETROIT -- Jadyn Fielder had already received his gifts for his eighth birthday before his dad stepped to the plate on Friday night against the Orioles. Now he's getting a baseball.

"He'll probably play catch with it," Jadyn's dad, Prince Fielder, said.

The youngster has plenty, no doubt, but this one took quite a journey -- about 462 feet to the center-field concourse of Comerica Park. It also took the Tigers from a potentially damaging loss with Justin Verlander on the mound to a tie score.

Fielder's second home run of the game took care of the rest.

"We got the big blows from the big guys. There's no defense to those," manager Jim Leyland said after Fielder's eighth-inning drive off J.C. Romero broke the tie for a 5-3 win. "It turns the crowd around a little bit. It turns the team around a little bit, honestly. We needed that. We were a little bit stale."

The win, combined with a White Sox loss in Kansas City, whittled Detroit's deficit in the American League Central to 1 1/2 games. It also moved the Tigers into a tie with the O's for the second AL Wild Card spot.

The duo of Fielder and Miguel Cabrera accounted for all of the Tigers' runs, and four of their five hits. It was Cabrera's first-inning loft that had put Detroit ahead before Orioles starter Tommy Hunter settled in.

On a night when the rest of the lineup was stymied and Verlander wasn't near his best, Cabrera and Fielder carried the club.

Even if Detroit hadn't won, people would be talking about Fielder's two hits. The fact that they changed the course of the game just made them bigger.

"I don't know that I've ever seen any ball in my entire life hit any harder than the first one Prince hit," Leyland said. "I'm not talking about distance, but I'm talking about, just, pow."

It was a startling shot after Cabrera had hit an easy ground-ball single through the Orioles' infield shift with one out in the sixth in a 3-1 game. Fielder came up ready to jump on a first-pitch fastball.

What followed was the combination of a hittable fastball connecting with the sweet spot of a bat being swung by one of baseball's strongest hitters.

The ball reached the railing of the concourse in right-center, beside the fountain structure, before falling onto the shrubs, where it sat until a member of the grounds crew retrieved it.

"I've seen [balls] hit that far, but that was as hard as you can hit a ball," Leyland said. "You can't hit a ball any better than that. That's one of those sweet spots [former legendary hitting coach] Charlie Lau used to talk about.

"It doesn't happen often, but if you hit a golf ball exactly right, you can't even feel it hit the club. Everything's perfect. I can't imagine Prince even felt that [ball] hitting the bat. I think it was such a perfect swing, and he centered it so good."

Fielder didn't argue.

"I didn't feel too much of it," Fielder said. "I hit it on the barrel."

It wasn't a milestone homer, but Fielder was glad to have it for his son, even if it wasn't a special request. Considering how much his kids enjoy his Home Run Derby performances, it seemed fitting.

"Every one of his birthdays, I always try [to homer]," said Fielder, who went deep on Jadyn's fifth birthday. "I hit one the day he was born, and that was a big deal. It's been rough the past couple of birthdays, so I finally hit [another] one on his birthday. That was pretty cool."

Both Verlander and Hunter left with no-decisions after six innings of three-run ball.

"We did a great job against Verlander tonight, and I'm so proud of our guys," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "They're hurting in there right now because they grinded to get him out of the game."

Octavio Dotel and Joaquin Benoit retired the O's in order in the seventh and eighth, respectively, and Darren O'Day came within an out of doing the same before falling behind Cabrera with two outs in the eighth.

O'Day walked Cabrera, extending the inning for Fielder, who greeted Romero by getting under a fastball and sending it seemingly as high as the other one went far, a combination of brute strength and hang time.

If the first home run was a two-iron, Leyland said, the second was a wedge.

"But a real long wedge," Leyland said.

It was heading out. The only question was whether it would stay fair.

"I saw it and I went, 'Oh,'" Fielder said. "Then I saw it kind of slicing back and I thought, 'Oh, it might have a shot.'"

Leyland thought the same thing. The only one who seemed certain Fielder had just powered Detroit in front was Alex Avila, who was watching from the on-deck circle.

"When he hit it, I saw it go straight up," Avila said, "and I was right on the line. As soon as he hit it, I knew that's a fair ball, because it wasn't curving at all. It went straight up and right over."

That one was big for Fielder for another reason.

"This is my first hit ever off of J.C.," he said. "I mean, he's broken my fingers a lot of times with his sinkers. Finally got a hit."

Finally got another ball for his kid.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.