NEW YORK -- Three games against the Tigers can be easily overlooked when they're sandwiched between overhyped series with the Mets and Red Sox. But the Yankees made sure not to look past Detroit, instead bashing a season-high six home runs against the Tigers in a 12-3 victory.
Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada each drilled a pair of homers, as New York won for the 13th time in its last 15 games. Mike Mussina tossed seven scoreless innings to earn his fourth consecutive victory.
"We've got to build on something, play well and treat every team that comes in like it's the World Series," said Gary Sheffield, who also contributed a homer. "We're trying to get back in the race and get back to first place."
With the game all but over, tempers flared in the eighth inning after Paul Quantrill hit Tigers infielder Jason Smith. Quantrill appeared to be retaliating on behalf of A-Rod, who had been drilled by Franklyn German in the seventh inning after he had gone deep twice.
"I made my pitches, just like I'm sure the guy from the Tigers did," Quantrill said. "It must have been the rain, the slippery balls."
The game was actually close during the first three innings, with Mussina and Wilfredo Ledezma locked up in what looked to be a pitchers' duel. Mussina allowed just a pair of singles through three innings, and Ledezma's only miscue was A-Rod's solo home run in the second.
But the Yankees broke it open in the fourth, with Rodriguez belting his second homer of the game, this one a two-run shot against Ledezma. Rodriguez, who has homered in all four of his career at-bats against Ledezma, now leads the Majors with 16 homers and 46 RBIs.
"He obviously sees the ball real well," said manager Joe Torre. "Sometimes when that happens, the ball looks like it stops for you and you can hit it anywhere you want. That doesn't happen very often, but Alex is a very special talent."
"It was nice," Rodriguez said. "Top to bottom, everyone swung the bat extremely well."
Posada followed with the first of his two homers, boosting the lead to 4-0, and Robinson Cano added an RBI sac fly to complete the four-run inning and give New York a 5-0 lead.
The Bronx Bombers lived up to their name again in the fifth, driving Ledezma from the game on Sheffield's two-run homer. Matt Ginter relieved the lefty but had little luck in solving the Yanks, allowing four hits and a walk -- including Posada's second homer in as many innings -- as the Yankees took an 11-0 lead after five innings.
"Alex set the tone as usual," Sheffield said. "It seems like he's doing it every day, and we're feeding off him."
Mike Mussina / P
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
Mussina had little trouble getting through the Tigers lineup with his huge lead, limiting Detroit to six hits over seven innings of work. He did not walk a batter, striking out six as he improved to 5-2.
"When we keep scoring and I can keep the other team down, then the game moves along and it ends up looking pretty smooth," Mussina said. "It was good to see us come out after the off-day and keep the momentum going."
Cano put the icing on the cake in the eighth, crushing the first home run of his career into the upper deck in right field.
"It was exciting," said Cano, who got the ball back in exchange for a signed bat. "I've been trying to hit my first home run, because when you hit one, more are going to come."
Cano's homer was the sixth of the night for the Yankees, matching the club's highest home run total at the Stadium in history. The Bombers have now hit six homers in a game in the Bronx five times, the most recent coming last July, against Texas.
At 24-21, the Yankees are three games over .500 for the first time this season. New York remains 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Orioles but are now just 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, who are in second.
Torre, while mindful of the offensive explosion, continued to point to the pitching as the foundation of the team's recent resurgence. During the 13-2 run, the team's starters have gone 12-1 with a 2.78 ERA after going 8-14 with a 5.48 ERA in the first 30 contests.
"Our success is based on our starting pitching," Torre said. "A lot is made of how many runs we score, but Moose made it possible. Ledezma certainly wasn't easy for anybody but Alex in the first four innings. Moose gave us that confidence of thinking that one run was enough for a while."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.