Two innings into Saturday's 9-3 Tigers win over the Yankees, Detroit catcher Alex Avila could look up at the giant center-field scoreboard at Yankee Stadium and see his pitcher, Anibal Sanchez, with 20 pitches. His counterpart, Phil Hughes, had already thrown 53.
One was a fastball that Austin Jackson hit off the center-field fence for a triple to set up a sac fly in the opening inning. Another was an inside fastball to Cabrera, right around the border for the batter's box, that Cabrera had lined over the left-field fence for his 35th home run for the year.
"In the first couple innings, I waited for a while," Sanchez said. "I tried to get warmed up, stretch, do a couple exercises. I think in the second inning, I waited for 25 minutes, something like that."
It was just a two-run game at that point, but if there was a time of possession statistic to baseball, it would've been lopsided already. The scoreboard caught up soon enough.
This is how the Tigers have put together 13 wins in their last 14 games to go from the lowest of the division leaders to challenge the Red Sox for the best record in the American League. Even when Detroit's offense doesn't bust out, it wears pitchers down, and the starters have made a habit of getting their team back to the plate soon enough to have another chance.
"Sanchez controlled the tempo for us and did a great job to hold it down," manager Jim Leyland said. "Obviously, we had some big hits and some good defensive plays."
On Saturday, it all seemed to feed off of each other. And on an afternoon when the Tigers had to bounce back from an extra-inning loss and an end to their winning streak, they never allowed the Yankees a feeling that they were in this game.
"It's something that the Yankees did for a long time," said Hunter, whose three-run homer off Joba Chamberlain in the sixth inning put the game away. "In the past, with [Paul] O'Neill and [Derek] Jeter and Gary Sheffield, all these guys, they had professional hitters -- guys who know how to step up and make adjustments. I look at this ballclub right here, and it's kind of the same thing.
"From one through six, you've got guys with five, six years or more in the big leagues. They really know how to bounce back. If we lose one day, we don't dwell on it. We know how to have amnesia and come back the next day."
Justin Verlander, who gets a chance to help the Tigers take this three-game series on Sunday, described it another way.
"I think that this is the team that we want to be," Verlander said. "Right now I think we're pitching well, we're hitting well and we're playing good defense. That's the name of the game. If we're going to pitch the way we can with our starting rotation and we're going to score runs, I like our chances to win. It's that simple."
The Tigers have had two extra-inning games on this road trip, winning a 14-inning marathon in Cleveland on Wednesday night before watching their 12-game winning streak end in the 10th inning late Friday night. They bounced back from them with arguably their two best games of the week, and certainly their most lopsided ones.
Both times, the starting pitchers dominated while the offense wore down their counterparts and put it away early.
"It's like I always say," Leyland said, "momentum in baseball is the next day's pitcher."
Cabrera's homer moved him past Chris Davis for the RBI lead to put himself back on top in two of the three Triple Crown categories. He's still well behind Davis in home runs, but not out of reach, and he's in a stretch where he's hitting everything solidly, whether it's a hit or an out.
Jackson was no easier on Hughes, taking another shot at the fences and clearing them in left for a fourth-inning solo shot before Hunter's one-out single led Yankees manager Joe Girardi to bring in Preston Claiborne to face Cabrera. His ensuing line-drive single to left set up Victor Martinez for an RBI double and Don Kelly for a two-run single up the middle.
Hughes had beaten the Tigers in his previous five regular-season meetings, but he took his first loss to Detroit outside of the postseason since 2007. He gave up four runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out six, but half of the 14 balls Tigers put in play against him went for base hits.
"When I'm on, it's a lot of swings and misses. But when I'm not, it can lead to some drawn out at-bats," Hughes said.
For most of those innings, Sanchez was cruising through the bottom half, pounding the strike zone with a mix that left Yankees hitters guessing at times. He not only retired the Bronx Bombers in order the first time through the lineup, he allowed only one ball out of the infield in that stretch.
"That helped me when I get the lead like that," Sanchez said. "Right there, you can't feel comfortable. You have to attack in every situation, no matter how many runs ahead you are."
Lyle Overbay's two-run homer accounted for the damage off Sanchez, who picked up his third consecutive win with seven innings of four-hit ball to go with a walk and eight strikeouts.