Cabrera hit home runs to right and left field to seal his third straight 30-homer season, but both were solo homers. Even with Don Kelly's two-run shot, the Tigers didn't have enough to overcome a rough outing from Jeremy Bonderman.
Both teams hit three homers, accounting for four runs. The difference was the runs that the Yankees picked up without the long ball.
"If you don't make pitches against that team, they're going to wear you out," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
Neither Leyland nor Bonderman would comment on whether Bonderman executed his first pitch of the night, a fastball that hit Brett Gardner around the back of his lower right leg. It came two days after his slide to try to break up Monday's game-ending double play hit Tigers second baseman Carlos Guillen in the knee, causing a deep bone bruise that forced Guillen on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday.
If Bonderman meant to hit Gardner -- he wasn't saying after the game -- it was arguably his best-located pitch of the inning. After he struck out Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira made him pay with a tape-measure home run to right field, followed by a Robinson Cano solo shot.
"It was a cutter that didn't really cut," Bonderman said of his pitch to Teixeira. "It cut right into his bat."
Cabrera answered in the next inning by taking Yankees starter Dustin Moseley's offering deep on a line to left. Cabrera came back up in the fourth and sent out an opposite-field shot to right, his 30th homer, to bring the Tigers within a run. But Ramiro Pena's RBI triple and Gardner's RBI double fueled a three-run bottom half to put the Yanks in command.
All six hits Bonderman (6-9) allowed over five innings went for extra bases -- three home runs, a triple and two doubles. He has given up five homers over his past two starts, and 18 over his past 14 outings after holding opponents homerless in five May starts.
"He battled through, I thought," Leyland said. "He didn't have real good stuff, obviously. He couldn't keep the ball in the park."
Cabrera became the first Tiger with three straight 30-homer seasons since Tony Clark from 1997-99, but he could only do so much. While his first shot led off the inning, his fourth-inning homer came with two outs after Moseley sent down Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn ahead of him. Cabrera was on deck in the seventh after the Tigers loaded the bases with one out, but Kerry Wood's back-to-back strikeouts of Santiago and Raburn kept Cabrera from coming to the plate.
It was the trickle-down effect of an injury-depleted lineup that lost Guillen to the disabled list earlier in the day. His severely bruised left knee and the struggles of rookie Brennan Boesch prompted a lineup shuffle that had Johnny Damon batting behind Cabrera, Raburn shifted to third and Santiago second.
"The lineup is not the way you'd like to have your lineup, really," Leyland said before the game. "You're really conscious [of who hits] before and after Cabrera."
Nobody can protect Cabrera in the lineup, Leyland likes to say, but protecting Cabrera took on slightly new meaning once Chad Gaudin's 1-1 pitch hit him in his ribs to lead off the eighth. Gaudin gave up a Damon single and walked Jhonny Peralta to load the bases with nobody out, forcing Yankees manager Joe Girardi to go his late-inning relief specialists in a 9-4 game.
Brandon Inge's sacrifice fly was all they managed against David Robertson.
"I feel bad that it got to that," Girardi said, "because on a night that I don't want to use Robertson or [Mariano Rivera], I've got to get them both in the game. To think that we [hit Cabrera] on purpose, they're going to have their thoughts and I understand that. Miguel Cabrera hit two homers, it looks bad. But you know how I use my bullpen, and this is not a night I wanted to use Robertson or Mo. But Chad didn't have it tonight."
Cabrera did, but he didn't have enough. He couldn't have.
"A game like that, you want to win," Cabrera said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.