Phil Hughes up for the challenge of dueling Justin Verlander

Newsday's Erik Boland talks about the pitching matchups between the Yankees and Tigers in Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS. Videojournalist: Robert Cassidy (Oct. 14, 2012)

advertisement | advertise on newsday

DETROIT -- Tuesday night, the Yankees need Phil Hughes to become CC Sabathia.

With his team trailing 0-2 in the best-of-seven ALCS and his teammates again doing little at the plate, Hughes needs a Sabathia-like effort, or 2012 could be all but over for the Yankees.

Oh, have we mentioned that Hughes also will have to outduel Justin Verlander, the 2011 AL Cy Young Award and MVP winner who has produced another Cy Young-worthy season?

Bring it on, he said Monday.

"You're going to get a little more adrenaline from that," Hughes said. "I do enjoy that. I do enjoy that pressure and the opportunity, and I'm looking forward to it."

Based on, well, just about everything, Hughes vs. Verlander is a mismatch. Verlander (17-8, 2.64 ERA) is coming off two dominant starts in the Tigers' five-game ALDS victory over the A's. Hughes (16-13, 4.23) allowed one run in 62/3 innings in ALDS Game 4 against the Orioles. But Verlander, as Mark Teixeira said, very well might be "the best pitcher on the planet."

Hughes, who was 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA against the Tigers this season, has some positive history to draw on. On June 3 in Detroit, Hughes beat Verlander, 5-1, allowing four hits and striking out eight in a complete game.

"I remember I actually started off a little bit slow in that start, and it was kind of a struggle for me to get going, almost similar to my last start against Baltimore," Hughes said. "And then I remember I got stronger as the game went on and I was able to command the ball a little bit better. Hopefully, [Tuesday night], there's a little bit of a similarity in the fact that I can command the ball and hopefully command it early and often."

Of course, the way the Yankees' offense is going, Hughes vs. Verlander isn't the mismatch -- Verlander vs. the Yankees' lineup is.

Come to think of it, pretty much every pitcher vs. the Yankees' lineup has been lately.

"The game plan that we have going into it is to shut down the team as best we can, so that doesn't change. I'm trying to throw up as many zeros as I can," Hughes said. "I try to go out there, like I said, and throw the best game I can and trust that our guys are going to score some runs. And obviously, Verlander is a great pitcher, but he is human and we know we can score off him. I just have to do a better job than he does."

Dating to Sept. 14, Verlander is 6-0 with a 0.61 ERA, allowing 31 hits and striking out 49 in 44 innings. But the righthander has shown his human side against the Yankees more than against most other teams. He is 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 77 innings against them, including 1-1 with a 3.10 ERA and 25 hits allowed (including four homers) in 201/3 innings this season.

Not awful numbers, but there has been some success there for the Yankees, too.

"We have played Justin a lot," Teixeira said. "We won a few games, we lost a few games. And the biggest thing is familiarity. We know what he will do to us. He will throw it 100 miles an hour, mix in a good curveball and a good changeup. And it sounds like a tough job, but we have risen to the occasion before and are hoping to do it again."

If they can, it could turn around a series many have concluded is over. "I'd like it better if we were up 2-0 and they were still counting us out," Teixeira said, laughing. "I don't know, sometimes being the underdog is fun. And definitely going into Detroit for three games down 0-2, we are the underdog right now. But at the end of the day, you don't go out in the field saying, 'Well, I am an underdog, so I will shock the world.' I don't think it would be shocking if the Yankees came back and won this series. People wouldn't bet on it, probably, they wouldn't expect it, but at the same time, we're going to go out there and try to surprise people."

On Friday, with the Yankees coming off a floundering offensive performance in ALDS Game 4, Sabathia put his teammates on his broad shoulders and kept their season alive.

Now the Yankees need Hughes to do the same.

Subscribe to Newsday’s sports newsletter for stories, photos and videos about your favorite New York teams plus national sports news and events.

You also may be interested in: