No, this was not your everyday 9-5 win, and it started with the first pitch thrown by Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman.
The right-hander's opening delivery in the bottom of the first caught Brett Gardner in the right calf. The intent seems innocuous on the surface, but less so considering that Gardner's takeout slide of Carlos Guillen on the final play of Monday's game landed Guillen on the disabled list Wednesday. The warnings issues to both benches by home-plate umpire Eric Cooper and Tigers manager Jim Leyland's postgame response when asked if the pitch was intentional -- "Next question" -- didn't help matters.
Leyland was eventually ejected seven innings later, arguing with Cooper after Chad Gaudin hit Miguel Cabrera in the back with a pitch. Both Gaudin and Girardi insisted it was accidental, with the reliever saying his sinker "got away."
The Yanks' offense made Bonderman pay for his miscues early and often. With Gardner on first, Mark Teixeira launched a 1-1 changeup from Bonderman five rows into the second deck in right field. Three of Teixeira's last five home runs have been first-inning two-run shots. Two pitches later, Robinson Cano added to the early lead with his own drive to right -- albeit only to the first deck.
It was the second straight day the Yankees scored multiple runs in the first and fifth time this season they've hit back-to-back jacks.
"We hadn't been playing well recently. For us to come back tonight and get out to an early lead, it was very important," Gardner said, adding that he didn't much care whether he was hit intentionally by Bonderman.
Over the past two nights, the Bombers' offense has equilibrated. After coming within a ninth-inning bases-loaded walk of being shut out on consecutive days earlier in the week, the Yanks have scored 15 runs in their past 16 innings.
"Our offense hasn't been clicking exactly the way we'd like it the last few weeks, so it's nice to score some runs the last two nights," Teixeira said.
The Yankees were able to translate nine hits into nine runs largely because eight of their knocks went for extra bases. Teixeira's seventh-inning single -- his third hit of the game -- was the only time a Yankee stopped at first on a hit. It marked just the third time in franchise history that they had as many as nine hits with only one single.
Curtis Granderson ripped his second homer in as many nights, a fifth-inning drive off Bonderman, while Ramiro Pena contributed an RBI triple and Gardner a run-scoring double as part of a three-run fourth.
"We all expected the offense to be there," said Austin Kearns, who chipped in with a two-run double in the seventh.
The offense has returned despite the absence of cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez, who missed his second straight game with tightness in his left calf. With Rodriguez on the bench, Girardi has tweaked his lineup a bit, moving Gardner up to the leadoff spot and dropping Derek Jeter to second and Nick Swisher to fifth. It's paid dividends, with Gardner scoring a first-inning run on back-to-back nights.
The Yankees are 7-1 when Gardner leads off, and they've scored nine first-inning runs the last three times he's led off. Gardner alone has scored five times in the first inning in the eight games he's batted first.
The early offense helped make a winner out of Dustin Moseley, even as the right-hander surrendered a trio of home runs -- a pair of solo shots to Miguel Cabrera and a two-run blast to Don Kelly.
"I thought tonight -- and the last start, too -- I just made a couple mental mistakes, not paying attention to situations, hitters and counts," said Moseley, who has alternated wins and losses in his five starts. "I'm maybe attacking the zone too much when I'm ahead in the count. I'm kicking myself, but I'm happy the boys picked me up."
Indeed, the last two homers Moseley served up each came with two strikes on the hitter. Moseley didn't allow much within the fences, giving up the four runs on five hits in five innings.
Moseley's victory was preserved by the surging bullpen, which combined to toss four innings of one-run ball. Kerry Wood and David Robertson pitched out of a pair of bases-loaded jams in the seventh and eighth.
The Yankees were thus able to remain even with the streaking Rays atop the American League East and to position themselves to win their first series in August in Thursday afternoon's finale.
"We need to get on the right track again," said Teixeira. "We're hoping we're going to be playing October baseball, and October baseball is all about winning series. We did a great job of it in the first half of the season, and we need to get back to that."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.