DETROIT -- The breaks weren't coming, and neither were the hits with runners in scoring position.
Then, with an ineffective Jose Valverde on the mound, it all came together for the Yankees in the ninth inning.
The Yankees started out just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position -- the hit being a Jorge Posada ground-rule double that cost them a run -- and saw an Eduardo Nunez bullet somehow find the glove of shortstop Jhonny Peralta with the go-ahead run at third base. But New York's offense did what it usually does best -- work the count and stay patient -- en route to a 5-3 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park on Monday night.
"Tonight was definitely one of those fighting days," said right fielder Nick Swisher, who had the decisive blow.
With the score tied at 3 and one out in the top of the ninth, Mark Teixeira walked, Alex Rodriguez singled and Swisher laced a hard liner off Valverde into center field, allowing Teixeira to motor in from second base and slide just ahead of the throw from Austin Jackson.
"Tex is a big guy, man," Swisher said. "But once he gets that train going, he gets moving pretty good. It's just such a great feeling to do that, especially to help your team out."
New York then got an insurance run when Rodriguez came in on a passed ball, sending many of the 22,852 in attendance home.
With that, and yet another solid start by Bartolo Colon, the Yankees started off their seven-game road trip on the right foot, while the Tigers dropped their seventh straight game.
The ninth inning began with a blunder, as Curtis Granderson -- the former Tigers center fielder playing his first game as a visitor in Detroit -- led off with a walk and got a great jump on a steal attempt, but overslid the bag and was tagged out with the middle of the Yankees' order due up.
"I just went too far," Granderson said.
But it was how hard Granderson fought Valverde at the plate that might have made the difference.
Granderson forced the right-hander to throw 12 pitches to start the inning, helping open of the floodgates for the meat of the Yankees' order.
Valverde gave up two runs on two hits and two walks in the ninth. Tigers manager Jim Leyland attributed some of that to Valverde not having pitched since Friday, and Yankees skipper Joe Girardi gave some of the credit to Granderson's inning-opening at-bat.
"You usually look at your closer as a guy who's going to get 20 pitches or less," Granderson said, "so to take up [more than] half of that and have the guys behind him get a chance to watch the at-bats to see what's he doing, what's he got, I think it hopefully benefited some of the guys. They were able to get hits there later in the inning."
And they were set up to get those hits because Colon continued to pitch deep into games.
With deception, accuracy and unconventional movement, the 37-year-old right-hander limited a struggling Tigers offense to three runs in seven innings and outdueled Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the process.
In his three starts this season, Colon has a 2.49 ERA and has gone at least 6 2/3 innings each time.
On this night, most of the damage against Colon came from Alex Avila, who hit two home runs, including a game-tying solo drive with one out in the seventh. But for a team that still hasn't figured out what's wrong with Phil Hughes and went into the season unsure of what it would get from the back end of its rotation, Colon's contributions have been sensational.
"You think about if we had to go further down in our system with some younger kids [to round out the staff], it's difficult," Girardi said. "So he has really picked us up."
The Yankees jumped on Verlander early, putting four of their first five hitters of the game on base before Jorge Posada provided a two-run lead with a ground-rule double to center field.
Then, in the second, the Yankees took a 3-0 lead when Nunez -- filling in at second base for injured slugger Robinson Cano -- hit an RBI double that scored Brett Gardner.
The Yankees put eight runners on base in the first two innings against Verlander, but just four over the right-hander's next four frames.
"Justin obviously wasn't at the top of his game tonight, but he kept us in the ballgame anyway," Leyland said. "He said his arm felt really good. He probably got overexcited, throwing real hard that early, pushing himself. It's tough.
"He's done a good job making pitches at 92-93 [mph] to get outs. Tonight with this lineup, maybe he was overamped a little bit."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.