Did Verlander jump-start the offense?

CLEVELAND -- The New York Yankees went into Sunday's series finale in Detroit with a 1-4 record. They had been outscored 33-17, no one was hitting and they had to face Justin Verlander to avoid a sweep by the Tigers.

Since then, the Yankees have won three straight. They have outscored their opposition 32-7. They have hit nine home runs in the past three games, to raise their season's total to 15 overall, nearly twice the amount they had after eight games last season.

Probably most importantly, Robinson Cano has gone 8-for-15 in those three games, with three home runs, three doubles and seven RBIs. It's like the WBC all over for him, or even last September.

Now, there's no question that the lineup the Yankees are putting out on a daily basis is highly professional. There is also no question that, man for man, it is not as good as the lineup it is replacing due to injuries and offseason defections.

So why is the Yankees' offense putting up numbers the "Murderers Row" Bombers would be proud of?

Maybe it's a simple case of believing in itself.

Although Kevin Youkilis went into a tired routine of "no one believed in us," the truth is this: At the end of spring training even Cano wasn't quite sure of what the Yankees' makeshift lineup was going to be able to do once the games got real.

But Brett Gardner, who busted out with four hits, two of them doubles, and two RBIs in Tuesday's 14-1 trouncing of the Indians, may have hit on something when he said, "Beating a guy like Verlander gives you a big boost. It was a game we had to win. We had CC on the mound, and any time you've got CC on the mound it's almost a must-win game. And against Verlander we were able to get some runs off of him early. From then on, we've swung the bats pretty well."

Of course, the pitchers the Yankees have victimized here -- Ubaldo Jimenez on Monday and Carlos Carrasco and Brett Myers on Tuesday night -- are not nearly in Verlander's class. But Joe Girardi also mentioned the victory over Verlander as a possible jumping-off point for his suddenly rejuvenated offense.

"I think the last few days, we beat a very good pitcher in Verlander, then we come in here and score a bunch of runs the next two nights," he said. "They've got to feel pretty good about that."

Whatever has gotten into the Yankees' hitters, it spread quickly Tuesday. Gardner led off the game with a double, and although he was stranded at third when Travis Hafner hit into a double play, the Yankees got four runs in the second on Gardner's two-run single and Cano's two-run double.

Ichiro Suzuki added a solo homer in the third, and then the Yankees drove Carrasco out of his mind, and out of the game, with two more in the fourth on Cano's third home run in two nights. Carrasco, who started this season in the penalty box, serving a six-game suspension for plunking Billy Butler 2011 (he missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery), pulled the same move on Youkilis, drilling him in the shoulder and getting immediately ejected by home plate umpire Jordan Baker.

Carrasco's replacement, Brett Myers, lasted longer but was just as much a punching bag, allowing seven runs, including home runs to Youkilis, pinch-hitter Brennan Bosch and Lyle Overbay, in 5-1/3 innings. Gardner was 4-for-5 on the night, Cano 4-for-6 with 5 RBIs, and Overbay 3-for-5. Of the starters, only Hafner was hitless Tuesday night, but he had a big night on Monday.

The production is all the more remarkable for the fact that the elements of this lineup were basically assembled during the spring training fire drill, when Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira got hurt and Derek Jeter suffered a setback that landed him on the DL. Youkilis and Hafner were in camp all spring, but guys like Boesch joined when the program was already in progress, and Vernon Wells and Overbay arrived literally in the final days of camp.

"The guys that we have, most of them have been around for a long time and know what to do if you make bad pitches," said Andy Pettitte, the beneficiary of Tuesday's explosion. "Our guys can hit. They take a lot of pride in what they're doing. You've got to pitch, you've got to make quality pitches or these guys are going to hit you."

And it all started with a solid game against one of the highest-quality pitchers of all. Thanks, Justin.