DETROIT -- For eight innings, the Yankees were mostly futile with runners in scoring position. But in the ninth, a player who has experienced plenty of that frustration this season finally came through.
Nick Swisher, who entered the game hitting .218, lined a single up the middle against Jose Valverde to drive in Mark Teixeira with the go-ahead run as the Yankees beat the Tigers, 5-3, Monday night, handing Detroit its seventh straight loss.
"It's nice to be the guy to step up when the team needs it," said Swisher, who had doubled and was stranded in the seventh.
Before Swisher's tiebreaking hit, the Yankees (17-9) were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. A passed ball charged to Alex Avila -- who had hit two solo home runs for the Tigers -- then allowed Alex Rodriguez to score an insurance run.
The Yankees wound up with 11 hits and eight walks but went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base. They also had a runner thrown out at third and two at second. "You keep putting them on, the law of averages is you're eventually going to score," Joe Girardi said.
Girardi, who typically doesn't use relievers three straight days, did so with Rivera because the closer had thrown 18 and nine pitches in his previous two outings. He threw nine this time and will have Tuesday night off.
The Yankees made Justin Verlander work throughout. The righthander threw 32 pitches in the first inning -- highlighted by Jorge Posada's two-out, two-run double on a 99-mph fastball -- and finishing with 127 pitches through six. Posada joked of his ground-rule double in the first, "I closed my eyes and swung."
The game provided some rare positives for Posada, who entered hitting .133 and was coming off a 1-for-16 homestand but went 2-for-5. "I'm feeling better at the plate," said Posada, who has been doing extra work with hitting coach Kevin Long. "Just my stance and attacking the ball, it seems I'm better."
With the uncertainty surrounding Phil Hughes, Bartolo Colon has been critical to the rotation, and he was good again. He received a no-decision after allowing three runs, seven hits and no walks in seven innings and would have had a much better night if he hadn't had to face Avila or Ramon Santiago. Avila hit two opposite-field homers to left-center, the latter in the seventh to tie it at 3, and Santiago had two singles, a double and a run scored. He came in 8-for-17 in his career against Colon.
"I don't know what it is," Colon said. "Every time I face him, he gets a hit."
But Colon again pounded the strike zone, striking out seven -- five of them called -- and throwing 67 of his 97 pitches for strikes. Girardi and catcher Russell Martin have talked about the "late life" on Colon's pitches, but the righthander had a simpler explanation of why he gets so many called third strikes. "I think," he said with a smile, "because I throw a lot of strikes."
Girardi said Hughes, who earlier in the day was cleared by a St. Louis specialist of having any circulatory or vascular disorders, will return to New York and continue his arm-strengthening program. But the Yankees are back to square one with the 24-year-old, not knowing when or if he's going to rediscover his missing velocity.
The soon-to-be 38-year-old Colon has made Hughes' absence less painful. "You think about if we had to go further down in our system with some younger kids, it's difficult," Girardi said. "He has really picked us up."