DETROIT -- In a pitching matchup that featured the reigning American League Most Valuable Player, Phil Hughes was superior.
Hughes dominated in the Yankees' 5-1 victory over Justin Verlander and the Tigers at Comerica Park, giving the Yankees their second win this season in a game started by last year's AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
The pitcher to watch on Sunday was Hughes, who followed his worst start of the year with arguably the best of his career. After surrendering a season-high seven runs and career-high 11 hits against the Angels on Monday, Hughes scattered four hits against Detroit for his first career nine-inning complete game.
"It's great," Hughes said. "The big thing this year has kind of been pitch count and not going very deep in games. Especially coming off a bad outing, to be able to put this one together is a good feeling and hopefully something to build off."
The win also secured a 6-3 road trip for the Yankees, who swept the A's in Oakland and took two out of three from the Tigers.
New York's offense presented itself immediately, as Derek Jeter hit his 27th career leadoff home run on the first pitch of the game from Verlander. The Yankees tacked on a second run in the frame when Curtis Granderson walked and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Mark Teixeira.
"It's not like he's fun to face," Jeter said of Verlander. "He knows what he's doing; he's going to mix it up. He seems to get stronger as the game goes on, so you like to score runs early any time you face him. Not too many teams have had much success, so we were fortunate today he was struggling with his command a little bit and we scored those early runs. But you're never comfortable when you're facing him."
Hughes allowed a two-out baserunner in each of the first three frames (a walk in the first and third, and a single in the second) before Prince Fielder drove in the Tigers' run, a deep home run to right field to lead off the fourth.
"Hughes was good, but we knew ahead of time," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I'm disappointed in the offense today [and] mostly left-handed hitters. He's been doing the same thing. Left-handed hitters haven't been hitting him. He just pounds the ball inside, and we didn't look in there to turn on the ball at all. We just kept letting him pound it in there, and he kept jamming [them] up."
The Yankees, who were not retired in order until the eighth, got a solo home run from Alex Rodriguez in the third and scored twice more in the fifth when Granderson doubled and scored on a Robinson Cano triple. Cano also scored on the play, when Danny Worth's throw to third got past Miguel Cabrera and Verlander and into the home dugout.
Hughes, meanwhile, didn't slow as the game wore on, facing the minimum number of hitters in four of the last five innings. But he nearly didn't get the chance to finish his gem.
After Hughes retired the first two batters in the ninth, Girardi visited the mound after an on-field delay and told the right-hander that Brennan Boesch would be his last hitter, regardless of the outcome of the at-bat. Hughes stuck out Boesch swinging.
"I knew I couldn't mess around too much," Hughes said of his eighth strikeout of the afternoon. "So it was nice to get him."
Hughes attributed his success to some minor mechanical adjustments he made around the third or fourth inning, trying to keep the ball from running over the plate. He relied heavily on his fastball all afternoon, and the Tigers couldn't figure him out.
"I thought his stuff was probably as good as we've seen it all year long," Girardi said. "And that's encouraging."