Detroit has still lost four out of its past six games and is riddled with injuries to critical players such as Doug Fister, Austin Jackson and most recently, Joaquin Benoit, Andy Dirks, Alex Avila and Gerald Laird. But with a 4-3 walk-off win -- thanks to a sacrifice fly by Omir Santos -- the Tigers have given their ace a shot to take two out of three from New York.
"To be able to win one of these first two games and have Justin pitching game 3, hopefully we can get a series win from these guys," Saturday's starter, Rick Porcello, said after the win. "It would be big, especially coming off the road trip that we did. We've obviously got to get some momentum going, and wins like this can do that for you."
The Tigers went 4-6 on their 10-game road trip. Verlander made two starts and lost both, albeit in different ways. In his first outing, at Cleveland, Verlander threw a complete game but took the loss. The second time, in Boston, he got hit hard. Against the Red Sox, the right-hander allowed five runs on 10 hits -- a total he hadn't given up since Sept. 2, 2010.
"Justin wasn't as sharp as normal," manager Jim Leyland said after the game.
Verlander will try to regain his top form against a Yankees lineup he saw earlier this season. He allowed five runs -- four earned -- on seven hits over six innings in that start. Verlander left in line for the win, but the bullpen couldn't maintain it.
Verlander will be opposed by the 25-year-old Hughes, who hasn't faced the Tigers this season but is 4-3 with a 4.54 ERA in eight career games (six starts) against them.
The right-hander allowed a season-high seven earned runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings in his last start, against the Angels.
"He couldn't get his fastball to stay on the first-base side," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Hughes after the game. "If he would try to go away from righties, it would come back across. If he tried to go in to lefties, it would come back across. He really didn't have much command of it."
Tigers: Avila out with hamstring injury
Avila was scratched from Saturday's game with right hamstring tightness that he noticed after waking up. He is considered day to day.
"I woke up this morning and just didn't feel right," said Avila, who was originally in Saturday's starting lineup, set to bat sixth and catch. "I started to do some running and stuff, and just couldn't. I was afraid that I was going to really hurt myself. I really won't be any good right now -- at least today."
Jackson, who has been on the disabled list since May 17 with an abdominal strain, is getting closer to returning to the field. The 25-year-old center fielder stepped up his rehab and began baseball-related activities on Saturday.
"He's going to do everything out there, as far as his running's concerned, as far as his defensive work is concerned," Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said on Saturday. "He's going to play catch. He's going to do all of those things today. The only thing he won't do is take batting practice."
Miguel Cabrera is 7-for-14 with a double, three home runs and six RBIs in his career against Hughes. The third baseman hit two home runs on Saturday that ESPN estimated to have traveled a combined 910 feet.
Yankees: Granderson much improved vs. lefties
Before being traded from the Tigers to the Yankees following the 2009 season, center fielder Curtis Granderson couldn't hit left-handed pitching for power. In '09, Granderson hit .183 against southpaws -- but those numbers have increased each year since. So far in 2012, he's hitting .286 with five home runs against southpaws.
"It was never about, 'Hey, we've got to increase the power numbers' or anything," said Granderson of his adjustments with hitting coach Kevin Long. "When we made the change, it was just to get consistent against them, like we do against righties. And if the power comes, great. But that's definitely not the mindset."
The Tigers aren't the only team to have been bitten by the injury bug. The Yankees have lost two of their most important relievers in David Robertson and Mariano Rivera. Their substitutes allowed two late-inning runs that ultimately cost New York the game on Saturday. However, aside from that effort, manager Joe Girardi has been impressed by his bullpen.
"I think they've don't a really good job," Girardi said. "We've asked them to step up not a little bit -- we've asked them to step up a lot. You lose your eighth-inning guy, you lose your ninth-inning guy and now you ask guys to give you outs later in the game, and they've done a great job."
Nick Swisher is 10-for-49 (.204) in his career against Verlander. It's obviously not the best batting average, but when Swisher does hit the right-hander, the ball travels far. He has four doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs.
Former Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez will announce his retirement during a pregame ceremony at Comerica Park prior to Sunday's game.
Verlander is 4-3 with a 4.16 ERA in 11 career starts against the Yankees.
With 17, Granderson is tied for the second-most homers in the Majors. Five of his last six have either tied a game or given the Yankees a lead.