NEW YORK -- The numbers keep piling up for Alex Rodriguez.
The two-run shot gave him 49 RBI, also tops in the majors and was the 398th home run of his career, tying Dale Murphy for 42nd place on the all-time list. A-Rod needs one homer to tie Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga (399) for 40th place and two to become only the 40th player to reach 400.
Fancy numbers for a guy who occasionally has heard it from fans complaining that he has not delivered in the clutch.
Manager Joe Torre is not one of those complaining.
"I think it took a little time for him to settle in," Torre said. "When you come here with great expectations, you try to do too much. And he's coming from places where he had to do too much and in spite of what he did, his teams did not win regularly. I think this year, he's a different person."
Rodriguez connected in the fifth inning against Jeremy Bonderman (5-3) following a single by Hideki Matsui. Earlier, he left runners at first and third when he struck out against Bonderman.
"Bonderman's a handful," A-Rod said. "I don't know what right-handers are hitting against him but it's probably not much. He's electric. He throws 97 with a great slider."
Well, not all the time.
Detroit manager Alan Trammell said Bonderman slipped on the pitch that Rodriguez hit for the home run. "The pitch was 89 mph over the heart of the plate and A-Rod hit it 450 feet," Trammell said. "That's the way things are going for us."
The win was the Yankees fourth straight and 15th in 17 games, and moved them into a tie with Toronto for second in the AL East, one-half game ahead of Boston. It's the first time since April 10 New York was higher than third in the division.
The Yankees had not led the Red Sox in the standings since April 13, when New York was 4-4 and Boston was 3-5, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The rivals open a three-game series on Friday night.
The Tigers had an early 3-1 lead against Kevin Brown (4-4), who gave up 10 hits in seven innings. It was an encouraging outing for the right-hander, who has won his last four starts after losing his first four.
"I've been kind of an anchor dragging us back," Brown said.
The Yankees got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second. Rodriguez walked with one out and raced to third on a double by Tino Martinez. When first baseman Carlos Pena was unable to handle Jorge Posada's grounder for an error, Rodriguez scored.
After Jason Giambi was hit by an 0-2 pitch to load the bases, Robinson Cano grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Detroit came back in the third when Brandon Inge doubled with one out and scored on a single by Ramon Martinez. Dmitri Young then doubled into the left-field corner, scoring Inge. Rondell White popped a ball down the third-base line and beat it out for a single. Ivan Rodriguez then hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the third, Tony Womack singled with one out but was thrown out stealing. Gary Sheffield and Matsui followed with singles, giving New York runners at first and third with two outs but A-Rod struck out, ending the inning.
Detroit added to its lead in the fourth when Jason Smith tripled with two outs and scored on a single by Nook Logan.
Tino Martinez and Posada opened the Yankees fourth with singles. Giambi struck out on three pitches and Cano hit what appeared to be another double-play ball, but Ramon Martinez dropped the throw at second base for an error loading the bases. Derek Jeter's groundout scored one run and Womack bounced out, ending the inning.
Mariano Rivera gave up a single to Smith in the ninth but struck out the side for his 11th save.
"We're struggling scoring runs," Trammell said. "We had chances but didn't cash in. That club has won 15 of 17, That team over there is not going away."
Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen was scratched from the starting lineup because of a sore right knee. ... White extended his hitting streak to 14 games. ... Matsui extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games, the longest streak by a Yankee this season. ... The Yankees were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.