DETROIT -- Timing hasn't been a staple of the 2012 Tigers. Then again, neither has consistency.
After the incredible high Magglio Ordonez's retirement ceremony provided the sellout Comerica Park crowd (42,419 in attendance), Derek Jeter did his best to take the crowd out of the game.
About 10 minutes after the field was cleared of all things Magglio, the Jeter planted a Justin Verlander fastball 357 feet away into the right-field stands to get things started. Two walks, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly later, the Tigers trailed the Yankees 2-0 heading into the bottom of the first.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi had spoken before the game about the importance of early runs. Jeter delivered for the manager in sublime fashion.
"(The leadoff home run) gave us the lead, and talking about Verlander, a lot of times if you don't get him early, you don't get him at all," Girardi said. "That's the bottom line."
As it turned out, Verlander never got things going. He was erratic at best from the getgo, needing 58 pitches to get through just four innings not exactly trademark J.V. Then again, neither is a 29:29 ball-to-strike ratio. Or surrendering a Greenberg-Gheringer monument-splitting home run to Alex Rodriguez.
Nothing was quite trademark about Sunday's performance.
Verlander went 6 13, allowing five runs three earned on nine hits, four walks, four strikeouts and two home runs. A good, but not his usual Verlander-esque line.
Phil Hughes, the Yankees very own Magic Mountain, pitched his first career complete game. He allowed one run on four hits, three walks and had eight strikeouts. Hughes did so just one start after an atrocious outing in Anaheim.
""It feels great," Hughes said. "My fastball was staying more true, had some good life on it. I just felt a lot better overall.
"And a leadoff homer, it always helps, you know, especially off of Verlander. You take what you can get."
Just one night after coming up with some timely hitting, the Tigers bats fell flat. Flat Stanley flat.
They mustered just four hits. Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young went a combined 2-for-12, with a home run and four strikeouts. Hitters 8-9-1-2 went 0-for. A bad night, but teams have these games. The bigger issue might have to do with plate discipline.
Against Hughes, who isn't Verlander by any stretch of the imagination (5-5, 4.96 ERA after Sunday), the Tigers never sent more than four batters to the plate in an inning.
They had four 1-2-3 innings. Most troubling of all? Hughes entered the eighth inning with 98 pitches. He got out of the eighth with just 105.
Omir Santos and Quintin Berry swung at the first pitch before Danny Worth looked patient by association in his four-pitch at-bat. One inning, seven pitches.
And it isn't just a one-game affair. Saturday night, even in a winning effort, the Tigers forced the Yankees to throw just 114 pitches as a team. The Tigers, by contrast, offered 174 times to Yankees hitters. The Tigers got lucky Saturday, but not Sunday.
They need to do a better job of making pitchers work, especially if a pitcher has it working the way Hughes did.
There was another fan-on-the-field incident on Sunday, this coming just a week after a streaker made headlines during the USA v. Brazil soccer match.
In the ninth inning, with the Tigers trailing 5-1, a fan clad in camouflage cargo shorts and a Cookie Monster T-shirt jumped onto the field, ran around for a while, then went and gave Yankees' right fielder Nick Swisher a high-five.
"He just came over to me and was like, 'Come on, dude, give me some DAPS,'" Swisher said. "And I was like, well, he's going to jail, why not?"