PHOENIX -- For most of this season, Justin Verlander has not been the ace he has been in previous years.
His 4.88 ERA entering Monday's game against the D-backs was higher than any of his final marks in his first eight full Major League seasons.
But about 10 minutes before Verlander started warming up before the game -- a contest Detroit wound up winning, 4-3, over Arizona -- he was looking at some pictures of his arm action from the past, and he noticed it had changed.
"[I] went out and tried to throw the way that I used to throw, and immediately, when I got on the mound to throw my bullpen to warm up, I was able to locate the way that I felt that I should," Verlander said. "I wasn't struggling to locate my fastball. I felt pretty easy, and that carried over into the game."
Verlander (9-8) didn't necessarily dominate the D-backs, going 6 2/3 innings and giving up three runs, but he pitched well enough to pick up the victory in a series-opening win.
For a few innings, he looked like vintage Verlander. With his fastball sitting in the low-90s and occasionally reaching 95, the veteran starter carved up the D-backs' order the first time through.
"I could tell right from Jump Street -- it felt like I was able to throw the way I want," he said. "Really the first time all year that I felt like I've been able to locate my fastball as well as I would like to."
The D-backs didn't manage a hit off him until second baseman Aaron Hill singled in the fourth inning, at which point things started to get a little rocky for Verlander.
All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt followed Hill with his Major League-leading 38th double, putting a pair of runners in scoring position.
The D-backs pushed across two runs in the inning on a groundout off the bat of catcher Miguel Montero and a single by left fielder Mark Trumbo.
Fortunately for the Tigers, the offense got off to just as hot of a start as Verlander did.
Up against Vidal Nuno, who was making his third start with the D-backs since being acquired from the Yankees, the Tigers got a pair of big flies from outfielders.
Right fielder Torii Hunter opened the scoring with a two-run homer deep into the left-field stands in the second, and center fielder Austin Jackson joined him an inning later with a solo shot to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
"It was [Hunter's] hot zone there, and I just left it up," Nuno said. "The consistency wasn't there and he took advantage of it. Jackson, it was just a cutter that just came in and he just took advantage of it."
The Tigers nearly added a third home run in the top of the seventh. Miguel Cabrera launched a line drive to center field, knocking it off the railing in front of the center-field concourse.
Thinking it was a home run, Cabrera was slow out of the box, so when Trumbo fired the ball back in, Cabrera was out by a few steps at second. Crew chief Fieldin Culbreth initiated a review to see if the ball was in play, and the call was confirmed.
More importantly, the long single scored Jackson from third for what proved to be the game-winning fourth run -- needed after D-backs right fielder Gerardo Parra hit a solo home run in the sixth inning.
"I was asking them to check if it was a home run or not to give [defensive coordinator] Matt Martin more time to look at the play at second base," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But they ended up looking at all of it, so it was all covered."
Adam Lichtenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.