DETROIT -- Rick Porcello grew up in a household that had Yankees fans. His father took him to Yankee Stadium when he was a kid, watching players like Derek Jeter.
It might be fitting, then, that the milestone win of his growing-up season came against the Yankees and Jeter. It took a few hard-luck decisions to get to this point, but with 15 wins for the first time in his career, and a month to go in the season, his breakout year has a statistical standard.
"I've worked hard over the course of my career, and I'm proud of my body of work," Porcello said after eight innings of two-run ball in a 5-2 Tigers win Tuesday night. "I want to keep getting better. I don't think I've been as good as I could get.
"The biggest thing is we're in a playoff chase right now. It's not the time to think about what I've done personally over the course of my career. I want to continue to do well and obviously, most importantly, help this team to the playoffs."
There was a reminder of the playoff meaning as soon as the Tigers began celebrating in the clubhouse. The music began blaring and the televisions began showing highlights just in time for players to see Royals All-Star Alex Gordon take Twins closer Glen Perkins deep for a walk-off two-run home run to keep Kansas City 1 1/2 games up on Detroit in the American League Central race.
It only briefly interrupted the celebration.
"Still a ton of baseball to be played," said Joe Nathan, who retired the Yankees in order in the ninth for his 28th save. "If the Royals continue the pace they're on, they deserve to go to the postseason."
If Porcello continues what he's doing, the Tigers will have a chance to catch them if and when the Royals fall off. The Tigers also remained one-half game behind Seattle for the second AL Wild Card spot with the win.
Porcello (15-8) had two 14-win seasons in his first three years in the big leagues, but missed out on chances at a 15th win with no-decisions at the end of both seasons, as a rookie in 2009 and again in 2011. The way he has pitched this season, it was inevitable. By doing it Tuesday, he joined teammate Max Scherzer atop the AL leaderboard.
Not bad for the guy who went into the season as the fourth starter.
"I think if you'd told me at the end of August, beginning of September, that this would be Rick's record and ERA, I would say 'Absolutely, I would absolutely take that,'" first-year manager Brad Ausmus said.
Still, it wasn't easy. Porcello hadn't won back-to-back outings since late June, though not for lack of stingy pitching. Among his outings that went unrewarded was a seven-inning, one-run performance Aug. 7 at Yankee Stadium, where he took a 1-0 loss.
Porcello wasn't quite that nasty Tuesday, but he cooled down a Yankees offense that had scored 27 runs over the course of a five-game winning streak that included an 8-1 win in Kansas City on Monday night.
Though Jacoby Ellsbury hit two no-doubt home runs -- one of them well into the right-field seats, the other into the right-field tunnel -- Porcello's ability to limit damage kept them solo shots. They were the lone extra-base hits the New Yorkers could manage off Porcello, who induced 14 ground-ball outs among the 24 outs he recorded and allowed just seven other hits.
"I actually thought we swung the bats pretty decent; we had nine hits off him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's hard to elevate the ball on him, so you're going to see singles. You have to put a lot of singles together in the course of an inning to score runs. That's what he's so good at, being a sinkerballer."
The only back-to-back baserunners the Yankees put on came in Porcello's final inning, when Jeter followed Ellsbury's second homer with an infield single. A sliding stop by first baseman Miguel Cabrera on Brian McCann started a double play, with Cabrera throwing to second base from his knees to erase Jeter before taking the throw at the bag.
Porcello had help from his defense, including a diving stop and throw from Ian Kinsler to rob Ichiro Suzuki to end the seventh in what was, at that point, a 2-1 game.
The bigger support came at the plate, where the Tigers put up more earned runs on Brandon McCarthy (8-13) than he allowed in his previous four starts this month combined. J.D. Martinez went 3-for-4, scoring two runs and driving in another.