Yankees 5, Tigers 1
DETROIT (AP)—Jose Contreras went to the mound with his head up, chest out and shoulders back.
Then he was as dominant as he looked.
“I like to watch body language, and he walked to the mound with a good strut,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
All five of New York’s hits were home runs.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Rodriguez said.
The last time a team had at least five hits and all were home runs was June 24, 1989, when the Cleveland Indians hit six homers in a 7-3 win at Texas, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Contreras (7-3) gave up just four hits in his longest major league outing since joining the Yankees for the 2003 season after defecting from Cuba. He pitched eight innings last Sept. 23 at Chicago when the Yankees clinched the AL East.
“Against the White Sox, I pitched a pretty good game, but it wasn’t as good as this one,” Contreras said through an interpreter. “As far as the major leagues go, those are the two best games I can think of.
“Prior to coming here, with the Cuban national team in 2001, I threw 11 innings against Japan. That was pretty good, but that was amateur, it doesn’t compare.”
After Dmitri Young had a leadoff triple in the fourth, Contreras retired 15 straight until he allowed Bobby Higginson’s single to start the ninth. Mariano Rivera relieved and got the final three outs.
With two-plus months left in the regular season, Contreras tied his win total from last season with his seventh victory in eight decisions. He struck out seven and walked one.
“Contreras was great—the best I’ve seen,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. “He had command of everything. We’re a pretty good hitting team, but he was awfully good.”
Detroit started the game with a major league best .283 batting average.
The Yankees won their fifth straight in their first game since the All-Star game. Detroit had won five of six against Minnesota and New York before the break.
When Bonderman (6-7) wasn’t giving up home runs, he was effective.
“They are a good team with a lot of power, and I made some stupid pitches,” said Bonderman, who struck out six and walked one in seven innings. “You can’t be throwing hanging breaking balls and fastballs down the middle to those guys.”
Six straight batters in the third and fourth innings alternated hitting home runs and striking out.
After starting the third with a strikeout, Bonderman gave up Lofton’s 407-foot homer to right. Then, another strikeout was followed by Jeter’s 424-foot shot to left-center that put New York ahead 2-1.
He got out of the third with another strikeout only to watch Rodriguez homer to lead off the fourth inning. After two groundouts broke up the trend, Matsui hit a home run to give New York a 4-1 lead.
The Yankees, with a major league best 56 wins, lead baseball with 137 homers.
“That’s a dimension we didn’t have before,” Torre said. “We’ve always had to string a couple hits together to get something going.”
The game drew 38,902 fans, Comerica Park’s largest crowd since 42,121 came to the home opener.
“It was a great crowd, but we didn’t give them much to cheer about,” Trammell said.
The largest crowd Detroit has drawn in the five years since it left Tiger Stadium was 44,095 last June 1 when Roger Clemens was pitching for his 300th win.
Kevin Brown, out since June 10 with a back injury, was supposed to throw three innings at Double-A Trenton on Thursday night, but he lasted just two. “The next start won’t be here,” Torre said. “He was discouraged, to say the least.” … Since losing to Boston on April 23, Contreras’ lone setback was June 20 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He did, however, get away with a no-decision after giving up seven runs against the New York Mets on July 3. … Bonderman pitched 15 scoreless innings before Lofton’s homer in the third. … Matsui played in his 1,500th consecutive professional game.