NEW YORK (AP)—Drew Henson was safe at the plate. In football, he would have been short of a first down.
Henson was called up from the minors last Friday amid rumors that he plans to give up baseball for a possible NFL career. Now he’s the most famous pinch-runner in the pennant race.
“The only thing you’re trying to do is not screw up,” Henson said. “It’s new, but any time you can help win the game is a great feeling—however that may be.”
Jorge Posada hit a two-run single for the Yankees, who got an excellent effort from their maligned bullpen and remained 3 1/2 games ahead of Boston in the AL East.
Detroit (37-106) needs six wins in its final 19 games to avoid matching the post-1900 record of 120 losses in a season set by the 1962 New York Mets.
The punchless Tigers snapped a 26-inning scoreless drought and tied it with two runs in the fifth, but still dropped their fourth straight.
“This was a pretty good example of what’s happened to us all year,” manager Alan Trammell said. “We played a pretty competitive ballgame. We just came up a little short.”
Yankees starter Jose Contreras came out in the fifth with a mildly sprained left ankle. X-rays were negative and he said he will make his next start.
“Initially I thought it was a lot worse,” Contreras said through a translator.
Fernando Rodney (0-3) walked Posada with one out in the eighth, and he was replaced by Henson. He moved to second on Ruben Sierra’s single, then Williams snapped a 6-for-43 skid with a single off the glove of diving second baseman Warren Morris.
Henson tripped and fell coming around third. “My foot slipped off the bag,” he said. But a runner can get back up in baseball—as opposed to college football—and he still scored easily.
The Tigers appealed at third base, but umpire Paul Schrieber ruled Henson hit the bag, and he smiled in the dugout with his teammates.
“If I’d have gotten thrown out at the plate, then there would have been some issues,” Henson said.
Hideki Matsui followed with a sacrifice fly, making it 4-2.
Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson struck out Craig Monroe with the bases loaded to end the seventh. New York has won three in a row since getting blown out in the first two games of a weekend series against the Red Sox and drawing the ire of owner George Steinbrenner.
“There’s no walk in the park,” Nelson said. “These are the teams that give you the most trouble. All these teams play hard. Everyone gets up to play the Yankees. Just because they lost 105 games doesn’t mean they’re going to lay down for us. They’re a scrappy team.”
Contreras cruised through the first three innings, but couldn’t get out of the fifth. Ramon Santiago hit an RBI single—Detroit’s first run since last Friday—and Contreras’ left shoe came off as he stumbled while chasing Alex Sanchez’s bunt single.
Assistant trainer Steve Donohue came out twice during the inning to check on Contreras, who never seemed comfortable again. He was lifted after walking Dmitri Young with the bases loaded, and Felix Heredia got out of the inning when Carlos Pena lined out.
The Yankees jumped ahead when Posada grounded a two-run single to left in the first.
Tigers starter Nate Robertson used a good breaking ball to keep New York in check for the first six innings. Seemingly undaunted by his first appearance at Yankee Stadium, the left-hander allowed two runs and five hits in his fifth start since being recalled from Triple-A Toledo on Aug. 18.
“It was pretty awesome,” Robertson said. “The nerves, anxiety was runningpretty good. I had a good time. I’ll never forget this moment.”
The Yankees have won 14 of the last 16 meetings, dating to 2001. … Yankees manager Joe Torre gave slugger Jason Giambi a rest, one day after he snapped a 1-for-40 skid with two hits. … Matsui saved a run in the second with a tremendous sliding catch on the warning track in left-center, robbing Shane Halter of extra bases and earning a standing ovation. … Robertson picked Alfonso Soriano off first in the fifth. … The Yankees are 31 gamesover .500, matching a season high.