It was far from his personal best. It probably didn't even crack his top five.

But, by nearly any other pitcher's standards, Justin Verlander's start in Game 3 of the AL championship series would've likely been jotted down as the highlight of his career.

For Verlander, it was just another gem hidden in a collage of a half-dozen jaw-dropping starts.

"He's learned to handle these situations," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He's learned how to stay pretty calm throughout the game in these big-game situations."

And, it showed Tuesday night.

Verlander didn't go the distance, but he bullied a New York Yankees lineup for 8 1/3 innings, taking a two-hit shutout into the ninth inning at Comerica Park.

For eight innings, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner only allowed a pair of singles by Ichiro Suzuki, puzzling a morbid Yankees offense with changeup and a fastball that clocked at 97 mph or faster 27 times.

His approach was simple: Get ahead in the count and be aggressive. It's a game plan that has worked in the past and worked to perfection Tuesday night as he never faced a batter with a runner in scoring position.

"I don't think there's any question about it," Leyland said. "He's matured a lot."

The approach worked in the early goings as he retired his first 10 batters, throwing only 33 pitches through the first three innings. But he hit a snag in the fourth.