Porcello's makeup remains strong, which is a big part of what got him here. His pitches on Wednesday generally were not.
Porcello threw 43 of his 75 pitches for strikes. His sinker that could pile up ground-ball outs in his earlier outings didn't have the same effect Wednesday, leading to just two outs on the ground after his three-groundout opening inning. His three walks in 3 2/3 innings matched his total over his previous three starts this season combined, covering 18 innings.
Porcello's curveball, the breaking pitch that was a project for him last year in the Florida State League and became his effective secondary pitch, was relegated at times to a show pitch Wednesday. The righty spotted one on the second pitch of the game, Leyland said, and he struggled to locate another.
"He only threw one curveball, I think, for a strike," Leyland said, "and obviously, you can't be a 1 1/2-pitch pitcher against a team like the Yankees, with that many left-handed bats in there tonight."
In short, Porcello had one of those days. Unfortunately, it came in his first start at Comerica Park. And while he can accept it, he won't have an easy time brushing it off.
"You're frustrated, because you want to go out there and you want to succeed," Porcello said. "You want to do well for your team. You want to do well for your fans and the organization. When you have a rough outing, that sort of thing, it's tough. It's a lot more magnified here than it would be in the Minor Leagues or anything like that.
"I've had success, and I know I can compete and be successful at this level. There's no question there. It's a matter of learning."
Success came for Porcello (1-3) early. He entered the fourth inning coming off an eight-pitch third in which he retired the top third of the Yankees' lineup in order. His velocity was strong, and his sinker seemed to be doing its job. He sat in the dugout while the Tigers worked a single, three walks and a sacrifice fly for their first run in the bottom of the inning before Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain (1-0) stranded the bases loaded with a nasty breaking ball for a called third strike on Miguel Cabrera.
Porcello lost Hideki Matsui to a leadoff walk, then after Robinson Cano lined out, fired all fastballs to Jorge Posada en route to a one-out single. Then as Porcello's pitches rose, the bottom dropped out on his outing.
The full-count offering that Nick Swisher hit resembled a home-run ball that Toronto's Adam Lind hit off Porcello in his Major League debut three weeks ago. It was an offspeed pitch that rose high and outside, allowing Swisher to launch an opposite field shot over the left-field fence.
"For any right-handed hitter, that would've been a real test tonight," Leyland said.
One sign of Porcello's poise this year has been to recover from shots like that and get back to outs. Swisher's homer, however, admittedly bothered him. He managed one out from the next four hitters before Leyland pulled him.
"It was a bad pitch," Porcello said. "That was the thing that just bothered me the most. I felt it was the right pitch, just in a bad spot. Normally, I don't let it get to me."
Johnny Damon's RBI double chased him from the game with a 4-1 deficit and two more runners still on base. After left-hander Clay Rapada intentionally walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases, Matsui cleared them with a double.
Once the Tigers rallied with five runs in the ninth, those runs became huge. Curtis Granderson's three-run homer was only the second by a Tiger off Mariano Rivera, the last being Bobby Higginson's game-tying solo shot at Tiger Stadium on July 6, 1999.
"If I come back and shut them down, hopefully hold them at three runs, that gives us a chance to stay in the game and battle and keep it close," Porcello said.
Porcello's loss won't be nearly that rare. But he'll learn.