That walk lit the fuse on a four-run rally, pushing the game well out of reach in Detroit's 7-2 loss to Seattle at Safeco Field on Saturday night.
Mike Zunino started the scoring with an RBI single off reliever Artie Lewicki and Dee Gordon capped the rally with a bases-loaded double off Lewicki's glove that trickled into right field and scored two runs.
"[Lewicki] said the ball was right at him, he thought it was right at [second baseman Dixon] Machado and didn't know if he should catch it or not," Gardenhire said. "And it ricochets off him, and there you have it."
With Mariners lefty James Paxton looking closer to his no-hitter form than the guy the Tigers beat in his last start, that was a bad combination.
Paxton (3-1) threw a complete-game three-hitter, but apart from a second inning homer by Victor Martinez, largely kept the Tigers off-balance. He struck out eight and walked one.
"He doesn't have one of those fastballs, at least for me anyway, you can take the other way; you've got to get on top of it," Detroit's Nicholas Castellanos said. "And that kind of opens you up to his offspeed stuff."
Fiers (4-3) gave up some early runs to Seattle on a solo homer by Jean Segura in the first inning, then a solo blast by Ben Gamel and an RBI triple by Segura in the second.
From there, he settled down, but against Paxton, the Tigers were always chasing. He finished with a line that included five-plus innings, six hits, four runs (all earned), a walk and two strikeouts.
And one successful debate about whether he should go back out to start the sixth inning.
"We're trying to get as much out of him as we possibly can," Gardenhire said. "And of course, what does he do? He talks me into it, then goes out and throws four straight balls, which he hadn't done all night long."
Lewicki gave up a single to Ryon Healy, then Zunino's RBI single. After walking Guillermo Heredia, Gordon's freak double into right broke the contest open.
"It was my first walk of the game, so I didn't really back up my talk there," Fiers said of his abbreviated sixth inning. "I asked him to give me another inning. Leadoff walks are definitely going to hurt, so I got us into that inning. Big inning, but it started with a walk, so it wasn't good."
Nor were the early home runs, a byproduct of Fiers pitching up in the zone.
"The home runs hurt," the right-hander said. "I've got to keep the ball in the park. If I do that, we're in a lot better shape."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED With Detroit trailing 3-2 in the fifth, Jose Iglesias nearly tied the game, slicing a pop into foul ground along the right-field line. Mariners right fielder Mitch Haniger made the grab and momentum carried him into the crowd, with Niko Goodrum racing home from second. But umpires ruled the play dead before Goodrum got to third, so the would-be tying run was held up there.
SOUND SMART If you're looking for a positive from Saturday's loss, you might look at Goodrum, who extended his hitting streak to a team-best eight games by beating out a huge chopper to Paxton near the mound. Goodrum is hitting .400 in that stretch.
HE SAID IT "He was attacking and he got a lead and a good pitcher like him knows exactly what to do with it. He was popping it in there pretty good, the ball was really jumping." -- Gardenhire, on Paxton's complete-game performance
UP NEXT Left-hander Francisco Liriano is trying to snap out of a May funk as his last two outings have been his shortest of the 2018 season so far. In that span, Liriano saw two no-decisions, allowing 11 hits and eight earned runs in 8 1/3 innings (an 8.64 ERA). He's also walked seven against six strikeouts. For the season, Liriano is 3-1 with a 4.03 ERA. He'll be opposing Mariners lefty Wade LeBlanc (0-0, 2.51) on Sunday at 4:10 p.m. ET.
Rob Shore is a contributor to MLB.com based in Seattle.