DETROIT -- Yankees manager Joe Torre could tell right away it was going to be a good night for Mike Mussina.
The veteran right-hander threw his first complete game of the season, taking a shutout into the ninth to lead New York to a 6-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers and a third straight win against the team with the best record in the majors.
"Right from the start, you could see how economical he was," Torre. "He threw a lot of strikes."
Alex Rodriguez went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs for the Yankees, who have won five straight and go for the four-game sweep of Detroit on Thursday night.
The AL Central-leading Tigers (35-18) have lost four straight.
Mussina (7-1) was an out away from his first shutout in nearly a year, but Magglio Ordonez singled home Placido Polanco, who had reached second on an error by Rodriguez.
Mussina settled for a six-hitter. He didn't allow an earned run, walked a batter and struck out five as he won his sixth straight decision. His last shutout was June 14, 2005, against Pittsburgh.
Torre came to the mound once in the ninth inning and was about to come out again to pull Mussina, but the veteran right-hander told his manager to stay where he was.
"They shouldn't have scored at all and I just wanted to finish it," said Mussina, who notched his 57th career complete game.
Detroit threatened twice while it was still a close game.
Singles by Marcus Thames and Brandon Inge put runners on first and second with one out in the third. But Mussina struck out Curtis Granderson looking and got Polanco to fly out
A bunt single by Inge and Granderson's bloop single to left gave the Tigers runners on first and second with none out in the sixth. But Polanco bunted into a force at third and Ivan Rodriguez then grounded into a double play to end the inning.
"He threw strikes and he was around the plate all night," Tigers first baseman Chris Shelton said. "... The ball was doing everything he wanted it to do and we hit some balls at guys."
Detroit's Nate Robertson (5-3) allowed six runs and 10 hits, walking two and striking out seven in 8 2/3 innings.
"I think he pitched very well," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of his starter. "He gave us a chance and gave our bullpen the rest it needed."
The Yankees were without shortstop Derek Jeter because of a sore right palm, center fielder Johnny Damon because of an injured toe and right fielder Gary Sheffield because of a bad wrist. Miguel Cairo played short, Bernie Williams played center and Terrence Long was in right.
"Guys just have to do what they do," Rodriguez said. "There's really no pressure."
New York took a 1-0 lead in the first on three consecutive two-out singles. Jorge Posada grounded a single up the middle to drive in Jason Giambi.
The Yankees added a run in the fifth on Rodriguez's bases-loaded infield single. A leadoff single by Andy Phillips was followed by a walk to Long. Robertson retired the next two batters, but hit Giambi with a pitch to load the bases. Rodriguez then hit a grounder down the third base line that Inge dove to knock down. But Inge's throw to second pulled Polanco off the bag.
Rodriguez tripled in a run and Robinson Cano brought home another with a fielder's choice in the eighth.
Cairo added an RBI single in the ninth and Giambi followed with a run-scoring double.
Sheffield had a MRI exam done on his wrist, but it wasn't scheduled to be read until Thursday morning. ... Detroit purchased the contract of RHP Zach Miner from Triple-A Toledo and optioned the contract of IF Jack Hannahan to Toledo. ... The Tigers hit five consecutive grounders to Cairo in the first and second innings to give him five assists and a putout on Detroit's first six batters.