Derek Jeter stepped in and homered on the first pitch of the game, giving the Yankees an early breakthrough against Justin Verlander.
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Then Phil Hughes took the mound and actually outpitched the Detroit ace.
”Phil deserves all the credit. He was pretty impressive today,” Jeter said. ”He just came after people.”
Alex Rodriguez also connected against Verlander, and Hughes pitched a four-hitter to lead New York to a 5-1 victory over the Tigers on Sunday. Hughes threw his first career complete game of nine innings; last Aug. 2 he went all six innings in a rain-shortened win over the White Sox.
Hughes (5-5) struck out eight and walked three. He threw a career-high 123 pitches.
”It feels great. The big thing here has been pitch count and not going very deep into games,” Hughes said. ”My fastball was staying more true, had some good life on it. I just felt a lot better overall.”
Jeter hit his 27th career leadoff homer, and Rodriguez hit a long solo shot in the third inning.
Verlander (5-4) allowed five runs (three earned) and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. He’s now lost three straight starts for the first time since 2008.
Prince Fielder hit his ninth homer of the year for the Tigers.
Jeter had two hits, and his homer gave him his 1,799th run, tying Ted Williams for 17th on the career list.
Verlander was laboring from the start, giving up an opposite-field home run to Jeter and then walking Curtis Granderson on four pitches. After another walk and a passed ball, Mark Teixeira hit a one-out sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
”Runs are few and far between when you’re facing him, but we scored early there, and I think he struggled with his control a little bit, so he got his pitch count up,” Jeter said.
Verlander stopped to talk to plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt after his first inning on the way back to the dugout. He was still frustrated afterward.
”I was uncomfortable right from the start, because the pitches that I practice every day weren’t getting me strikes,” Verlander said. ”To get a strike, I had to come over more of the plate than I normally do, and that’s a big problem against that lineup.”
Rodriguez’s ninth homer of the season easily cleared the fence in left-center and went an estimated 447 feet. The ball bounced high off the brick wall where retired numbers are displayed — right between Hank Greenberg’s No. 5 and Charlie Gehringer’s No. 2. It was the third mammoth homer at Comerica Park in less than 24 hours after Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera hit two similar shots to center Saturday night.
Fielder made it 3-1 with a 415-foot homer to right in the fourth, but the Yankees weren’t done. Robinson Cano’s two-out triple in the fifth brought Granderson home from second, and Cano also scored on the play when second baseman Danny Worth’s throw to third skipped past for an error.
Verlander extended his streak to 54 starts of at least six innings in the regular season, but he hasn’t been at his best lately. In his previous outing at Boston, he allowed five runs and 10 hits in six innings.
In an April 27 start at New York, he gave up four earned runs in six innings in a no-decision against the Yankees.
Hughes, meanwhile, has allowed at least one homer in all 11 starts this season, but he kept the banged-up Tigers off base for the most part. Detroit put outfielder Andy Dirks on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right Achilles. Catcher Alex Avila has also been out with right hamstring tightness.
NOTES: New York finished its road trip 6-3, with two of the losses by one run. … Verlander lost four straight decisions from July 26-Aug. 11, 2008. … A spectator ran on the field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and approached Yankees RF Nick Swisher, then ran around the outfield a bit before being tackled by security personnel. … New York 3B Eric Chavez made a nice sliding catch of a foul ball in the second. … The Yankees and Tigers are both off Monday. New York hosts Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. Andy Pettitte (2-2) starts for the Yankees against James Shields (6-3). Detroit hosts Cleveland on Tuesday night. Drew Smyly (2-1) starts for the Tigers against Ubaldo Jimenez (5-4).