Published June 03, 2012
DETROIT – Add another problem to the growing list for the Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander looks a bit more beatable lately.
Verlander allowed homers to Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, and Phil Hughes pitched a four-hitter to lead the New York Yankees to a 5-1 victory over Detroit on Sunday. The Tigers now trail the first-place Chicago White Sox by six games in the AL Central.
Detroit celebrated outfielder Magglio Ordonez's retirement with a ceremony before the game, although that altered Verlander's routine a bit.
"It was tough, because I've never really had to wait that long before taking the mound," the Detroit ace said. "I would get ready to come out, and then they had to do the lineups and the ceremonial first pitch and a couple other things. It is what it is, but you have a routine at home, and it just threw me off a little bit."
Jeter homered on the first pitch of the game, and Rodriguez hit a long solo shot in the third inning. Hughes (5-5) didn't need much support in throwing 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 struck out eight and walked three. He threw a career-high 123 pitches.
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.
"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.
Prince Fielder homered for the Tigers.
Hughes 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.
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.
"He was out of sync right from the start. I think the start of the game and having a new catcher threw him off a little," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I'm not worried about him a bit, though. He hasn't been out of sync in the last two starts, that was just today, and there were reasons."
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 homer 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.
NOTES: 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. ... 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).