DETROIT -- For the fans, and for Comerica Park, this has been an historic season for the Tigers.
For the third time in franchise history and third time under Jim Leyland, the Tigers surpassed the three million tickets sold mark.
"It's unbelievable," Leyland said.
This season, the Tigers have seen 41 percent of games sold out at Comerica Park (33 of 81 games). It started on April 5, when on Opening Day against the Red Sox, Detroit drew 45,027 fans -- the second-largest crowd in Opening Day history and largest at Comerica Park. And two days later, 44,710 -- another record-setting crowd -- pack the park once again.
Since then, the fans have continued piling in. On Thursday, in the regular-season home finale, the Tigers hit three million fans for the first time since 2008, when a record 3,202,645 tickets were sold. It also happened in 2007, the year after Detroit went to the World Series.
Leyland said he certainly wasn't taking any credit for it, deferring to owner Mike Ilitch's willingness to bring in stars like Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. But he took pride in it happening under his watch.
"I'm proud of that. It's nice to be part of that," he said. "This has been some of the best times in Tigers' history it seems to me. Spirit-wise, fan-wise, emotion, so at least I've been here during that time. That's pretty good.
"Three million, when I thought about three million to be honest with you ... I thought of the Dodgers, the Cardinals, the Yankees. To be honest with you, I didn't think of Detroit. Now that it's happened three times, it's pretty impressive. These people are unbelievable."
Leyland concerned about Porcello's availability
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland had just delivered the news that Max Scherzer (deltoid strain) would be unable to make his start on Friday. Then he expressed further concern about Rick Porcello's availability for Monday.
"He is [a concern]. To me he is," Leyland said. "I'm sure he'll make [his next start], because afterwards we had everything checked out and he was fine health-wise. So if he's fine health-wise that uncomplicates some things. But I'm going to look into it today. I'm going to have a talk with him about what's going on."
Porcello threw four innings against the Royals on Wednesday night, allowing four runs on seven hits. And although he began the night hitting 92-94 mph with his fastball in the first inning, that steeply declined in the fourth.
Porcello's fastball velocity dropped between 88-90 mph, prompting the skipper to remove him from the game. Leyland said on Thursday morning that it was "alarming."
"I just didn't like the way it was coming out," he said. "I was concerned about it. He said something in the third inning and I didn't know about it at the time, but he said he had really no feel for it."
Leyland also called the drop in velocity a red flag, as it was with Scherzer when he was removed from a Sept. 18 start against Oakland with right shoulder fatigue.
"But in fairness, I think there's a possibility, and I'm hoping this is the scenario, the fact that [Porcello] hadn't been out there in 10 days had something to do with it," the skipper said. "Did it for sure? I can't answer that. I don't know. But we'll get by."
According to BrooksBaseball.net, on Sept. 10 not a single Porcello fastball between pitches 51 to 61 was below 91 mph. On Wednesday night, only one of his final 10 pitches was above 90.
Porcello said he wasn't concerned about the drop in velocity.
"I just lost command of the strike zone," he said. "I really just didn't throw the ball good at all. I was up in the zone all day. Just didn't throw the ball well."
Miggy's average dips in series with Kansas City
DETROIT -- It was an uneventful day in Miguel Cabrera's race for the Triple Crown.
The Tigers third baseman was held to one hit in four at-bats in a 5-4 walk-off win over the Royals. He finished the four-game series 2-for-14 (.133), with his league-leading batting average dropping from .331 to .326.
Fortunately for Cabrera, the rest of the American League hitters in contention have not been lighting it up either. Joe Mauer and the Twins had an off-day, so his average stayed at .323. Angels outfielder Mike Trout's average has dipped to .321.
In the home run race, the only category in which Cabrera trails, Texas' Josh Hamilton did not extended his lead. The Rangers outfielder sits on 43 home runs, one ahead of Cabrera. Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion also had 42 blasts entering Thursday's action.
Cabrera finished his fourth consecutive game without notching an RBI, but his lead over Hamilton remains comfortable. Cebrera leads the Majors with 133 and Hamilton sits in second with 125 RBIs.
Cabrera has six games left, three at spacious Target Field and three at Kauffman Stadium. He has five homers in 25 games at Minnesota's ballpark and has tormented the Twins' pitching staff this season, posting a .400 average. He is a .352-hitter with nine home runs in 44 games in Kansas City.
Manager Jim Leyland was asked on Thursday morning if under any circumstance would ace Justin Verlander pitch the final game of the regular season on three days' rest.
"He will pitch, if we're still playing, he'll either pitch the tiebreaker with the White Sox if there is one or he will pitch Game 1 [of the American League Division Series] if we get in," Leyland said. "But he will not pitch on three days' rest."
After logging 2 1/3 innings on Wednesday night, reliever Al Alburquerque was unavailable for Thursday's series finale with the Royals.
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.