By Richard L. Shook
DETROIT -- Justin Verlander may have the hardware, but on Sunday, Phil Hughes had the stuff.
Hughes bested the Detroit Tigers' Cy Young/MVP Award winner with his first complete game this year and second of his career while New York backed him with a two-home run attack in a 5-1 victory by the Yankees.
His fastball was crisp, he moved it around and by mid-game Hughes was mixing in his nice sharp curve for a four-hitter. He struck out eight and walked three with six of his strikeouts coming in the last five innings.
"He was consistent about working inside," manager Joe Girardi said. "And after a while he did a good job of expanding the strike zone with his curveball. His stuff was probably as good as I've seen it all year long.
"This should give him confidence. If you look back at his last 4-5 starts, all but one of them are good."
Hughes improved to 5-5 while Verlander dropped to 5-4 with his third loss in as many starts.
It's the first time since August of 2008 that last year's dominant pitcher has lost three starts in a row and the first time since September of the same year he has lost three consecutive decisions.
He was very agitated in his post-game comments with the media, like he wished he could start Monday to take out his frustrations on somebody.
Verlander had trouble reading home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt's strike zone.
"That's an adjustment I need to make," Verlander said. "There were a few innings there where I totally abandoned one side of the plate.
"I don't want this to come across badly. He was consistent. Again, that's an adjustment I need to make."
Verlander's habit for the past couple of seasons has been to come out throwing 90-92 mph with his fastball, then ratchet it up as needed so he'll have enough left for 100 mph fastballs in his last inning of work.
But Derek Jeter set the tone when he drove the first pitch of the game (outside low 90s fastball) over the fence in right to give New York a quick start.
Two walks, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly by Mark Teixeira later the Yankees were up 2-0 and the game was in Hughes' hands.
"That always helps," Hughes said of the lead. "Especially off Verlander. You take any runs you can get."
Alex Rodriguez shocked Verlander with a home run to deep left center off a 96 mph fastball. His ninth home run this season and second in three games against the Tigers caromed off the brick fence between the names of Hall of Famers OF/1B Hank Greenberg and 2B Charlie Gehringer.
Prince Fielder drilled a deep home off Hughes' first pitch of the fourth but that was it for the Detroit offense, which didn't get another runner past first base. Fielder now has nine home runs.
The Yankees added two runs in the fifth when Curtis Granderson doubled and scored on a triple by Robinson Cano, who was waved home by the umpires when Danny Worth's relay from the outfield sailed past Verlander into the dugout for an error.
Outside of Fielder's home run, biggest excitement for the Comerica Park crowd came when a fan ran on the field with one out left in the game. He was cautiously surrounded, handcuffed and led away.
NOTES: RHP Joba Chamberlain (broken right ankle) threw a brief mound session with an ankle brace in Tampa recently, way ahead of expectations for his recovery. "I've always said I believe he'll be back," manager Joe Girardi said. "Knowing Joba, I believe he's going to be back for us this year. This (validates) that belief." Still ahead are more serious sessions to see if his ankle can handle the stress. "Having to cover the base and when you land as a pitcher, when you push off," Girardi said. "Those are the hurdles he's going to have to clear." ... New York's 4-3 loss to Detroit dropped New York to 0-12 this season when the Yankees are without a home run. ... OF Brett Gardner (strained right elbow) took indoor batting practice for the second time and could be hitting outdoors early in the week. ... RHP David Robertson (strained left oblique) threw a bullpen Saturday for the first time since being disabled. No timetable for a return has been established.
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