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Porcello changes up pitching game plan

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DETROIT -- Rick Porcello didn't last nearly long enough to earn the win in the Tigers' comeback victory Thursday night, but he pitched long enough with damage control to keep the Tigers in the game. To do so, he had to change his game for the last few innings.

When manager Jim Leyland said Minnesota's left-handed hitters were taking what Porcello was giving them by hitting opposite-field singles, it said something about Porcello's game. The curveball, a useful pitch for Porcello against left-handed hitters, was a little off, and lefties weren't fooled.

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"They hit some first-pitch breaking balls, which generally you don't see happen very often," Porcello said. "They hit a couple curveballs that I threw, which has been a good pitch for me this year."

Porcello didn't want to use the weather as an excuse, but the 44-degree temperature at first pitch likely didn't help. After an encouraging spring honing his curveball, Porcello struggled with it early in the year in the cold.

With that piece of his arsenal out of whack, and Twins hitters adjusting to hit his fastball, Porcello survived in large part with his changeup. It has comprised about 18 percent of his pitches this year, according to STATS, but he threw 28 of them out of his 102 pitches Thursday, according to data from MLB.com's Gameday app.

Seventeen of those changeups came in the fourth and fifth innings, when he recovered from Josh Willingham's three-run homer to hold down the Twins.

"Honestly, the last two innings, I felt like I barely threw any fastballs, just because they were doing such a good job of hitting my fastball," Porcello said. "Obviously I had to make an adjustment there."

Porcello's fourth inning was pretty much an even split of fastballs and changeups. He had more of a mix in the fifth, but still, 13 of his 24 pitches that inning were changeups.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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