"I want you to strike out Alex Rodriguez and win the game," Simon said.
He struck out Rodriguez in the first inning. It took until the eighth inning for Simon to pitch with a lead.
He won the game, a 2-1 decision over the Yankees, and has yet to lose a game he has started in a Tigers uniform.
"I just try to do my best every time," he said. "I'm happy the way I keep pitching right now."
Simon won six straight decisions last year on his way to a 12-3 start and a spot on the National League All-Star pitching staff. His second-half struggles raised the question: Which half was a more realistic portrayal of Simon as a pitcher?
It might well be both, but he's up to his first-half thing again. And the Tigers, with Justin Verlander on the disabled list and Anibal Sanchez struggling to keep the ball in the park, own baseball's best record at 11-2. Six of those wins have come in games started by Simon and fellow trade acquisition Shane Greene.
"As ballyhooed as our offensive lineup is, our starting pitching has been the backbone of our start," manager Brad Ausmus said.
Monday nearly got away from Simon early. After retiring the top of the Yankees' lineup in order in the first, capped by the strikeout of Rodriguez, he watched Mark Teixeira reach for an 0-2 splitter and send it out to right field for a solo homer on a night when the wind alternated between blowing right to left and gusting out to left.
"I think that was a good pitch," Simon said, "but he just made, like, a funny swing and just got it. I can't believe that he hit that for a home run."
Two batters later, Brian McCann doubled past a diving Yoenis Cespedes to the left-field wall. In a three-batter span, the Yankees had more extra-base hits than Simon gave up in his other two starts combined. He also struck out the side in the same inning, all of them chasing splitters in the dirt.
The latter trend held.
"I think the arm action on the split is so good it fools hitters into chasing it," Ausmus said, "because he really gets extended on it. It looks like a fastball delivery."
Simon gave up five more hits, but all singles. He induced 11 groundouts and no fly-ball outs to the outfield on a night when the winds were tricky on anything in the air.
He did not strike out Rodriguez again, though he retired him twice more. He also lost two curveballs up and in against A-Rod. That, he said, wasn't part of mom's birthday wish.
"I tried to make a good pitch, and I think it was too cold and I can't feel the ball," he said. "But everything worked really good today. I just tried to attack the hitters and throw the ball down."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.