"Offensively, we've been struggling. We know that as a team," said Thames, who has homered three times in two nights since taking over in the cleanup spot behind Cabrera. "We have to rally around each other and try to pick each other up and try to get everybody going. Not one guy is going to carry us. It's going to take all 25 guys, and all the position players."
Long-term, that's true. But short-term, Thames has shown the impact his home runs can make, especially during that stretch of five straight games with a homer last June that helped power the Tigers back to the .500 mark.
This isn't nearly the same surge, but he's 12-for-36 with five homers in 13 games since coming off the disabled list.
"We were hoping that Marcus could come back and give us some thunder," Leyland said. "We know what he can do if he gets on one of his rolls. That was huge."
The instant impact of the home run, that huge momentum surge, was worth the wait Friday -- at least through the two hours and 42 minutes of delays that topped the two hours and 28 minutes it took to play through six-plus innings.
Prince Fielder gave Milwaukee a first-inning lead with his three-run homer off Tigers starter Armando Galarraga. Granderson led off the bottom of the inning with a single, then watched Brewers starter Braden Looper strike out Placido Polanco and Cabrera to halt any rally until Thames came up.
Looper started off Thames with a first-pitch fastball before trying back-to-back offspeed pitches. Thames fouled off the first one, but didn't miss the second.
"We didn't tie it up, but we at least marked," Leyland said. "We got on the board right after they scored. I always think that's very important. It's something we always try to eliminate ourselves, as all teams do."
The ball landed in the left-field seats. As it turned out, it was one of the few shots of the night that wasn't close.
The next time Cabrera came up in the third inning, he hit a line drive off the back wall in the left-field bullpen that was eventually ruled a game-tying solo shot off Brewers starter Braden Looper (5-4).
The ball was initially ruled a single off the fence before replays showed it had actually cleared the fence. An inning later, Dusty Ryan's loft off the top of the left-field fence was initially ruled a two-run homer before replays showed it was instead a double.
Because it wasn't a ground-rule shot, the umpires used their discretion and decided that Josh Anderson, who was on first and running on contact, would've scored on the play, tying the game. Adam Everett made the ruling moot and rekindled momentum by singling in Ryan two pitches later.
"Everett just got another huge hit," Leyland said. "That little single was a huge hit in this game. It doesn't look like much now because of Curtis and Marcus, but that was a huge hit."
Once Granderson launched his 17th home run of the season, the main question was whether the weather would allow them to get the outs to make the game official. They had to wait through two hours and three minutes of a rain delay to find out.
"We're all looking at the radar, trying to figure out when there's going to be a hole," Granderson said. "If we see one, we're getting ready to come out, and sure enough it closes on us. Definitely a little anxious trying to figure out what's going to go on the rest of the night."
While they were looking at the radar, Zach Miner was preparing to pitch. Even if the delay hadn't gone so long, Leyland said, he wasn't sure Galarraga could hold down Milwaukee's lineup if and when they restarted.
Enter Miner (4-1), who was passed over for the rotation opening but whose 2 1/3 scoreless innings continued his roll in relief.
"I wasn't in there messing around," Miner said. "I knew that if we started the game, I was going in. I was relaxed."
Another downpour in the bottom of the seventh followed Thames' second homer, essentially calling it a night. Still, the Tigers ended up in double digits. They've scored 16 runs the last two nights after going seven straight games with three runs or fewer.
"It was a long, tough night for everybody," Leyland said, "but a very rewarding night."