DETROIT -- The Tigers have some issues. They are four games under .500, they have a losing record at home, their injury list is thick and the bench is thin.
They don't even want to consider that anything is wrong with Justin Verlander. And he insists there is not.
"Concerned? No, not at all," Verlander said.
Still, Detroit's ace lost a third straight start Sunday for the first time since 2008. He struggled with the strike zone, walking four. He was roughed up, surrendering two home runs and a triple among nine hits. A guy known for pushing the gun towards 100 mph with some regularity never seemed to cut loose.
All in all, it was not pleasant for the Tigers, who dropped a 5-1 decision to the New York Yankees.
The first of these three straight losses was statistically commanding and not even a blip on the radar. But Verlander's last two starts have gone for a combined 12⅓ innings with 19 hits and 10 runs, eight of them earned.
Derek Jeter hit his first pitch of the game for an opposite-field home run. In the third inning, Alex Rodriguez turned on a fastball and hit a laser shot that bounced off the brick "Tiger Legends" wall in deep left field, some 450 feet, leaving a mark between Greenberg and Gehringer. Robinson Cano tripled to the deepest nook of the ballpark in the fifth, driving in one run and scoring himself when the relay throw went into the Detroit dugout.
Verlander did stretch his streak of six-plus innings to 54 straight starts, but barely. After giving up a pair of singles in the seventh, manager Jim Leyland strode to the mound and mercifully ended things after 114 pitches, only 66 of which were strikes.
"I don't ever chalk things up to just being one of those days," said Verlander, who indicated he had a rough day with home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. "A lot of pitches could have gone either way and could have changed some at-bats. I felt uncomfortable because the pitches I constantly practice weren't being called. I felt every pitch I had to throw was a hitable pitch; I had to [pitch to] too much of the plate.
"I don't want that to come across the wrong way. Every umpire's different. Some guys are tighter than others. He was consistent. I guess I didn't adjust very well."
Neither did Detroit's hitters against New York's Phil Hughes, who pounded the zone all day with four-seam fastballs and got away with it for a complete game four-hitter. He made only one really bad pitch, a belt-high curve, to Prince Fielder, who crushed it leading off the fourth for the Tigers' only run.
"We made no adjustments," Leyland complained. "It was not a good day of hitting. The wind's blowing 80 miles per hour and the ball's flying out of the park and most of our left-handed hitters are chicken-winging pop-ups to the opposite field."
As for Verlander, Leyland simply said, "He's fine."
Presuming that is the case, it's probably safe to say we all are very, very spoiled.
Verlander was the American League's Cy Young and MVP winner last season, leading the league's pitchers with 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts as the Tigers ran away with the AL Central title.
On Sunday, the 2012 season reached the one-third mark and Detroit is 25-29 and six games out of first.
"Not good at all," was Verlander's analysis of the first 54 games.
Is it fixable?
"Yeah," he said, "of course."
And he'll have to be a big part of that. Of course.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: email@example.com or 419-724-6398.