NEW YORK -- After rolling along for weeks, the New York Yankees have suddenly hit a skid.
Carlos Guillen hit a first-inning grand slam off Mike Mussina, and Ivan Rodriguez also homered to help the Detroit Tigers beat New York 8-5 on Thursday night for the Yankees' third straight loss after winning nine of 10.
"I'm happy to say it seems very odd," New York manager Joe Torre said. "We still have a great deal of confidence."
Justin Verlander held New York's powerful offense in check and the Tigers won the opener of a key four-game series to move back into first place in the AL Central, a half-game ahead of idle Cleveland.
"We've got a pretty good lineup, too," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
Gary Sheffield finished 0-for-3 with a pair of walks in his return to Yankee Stadium. The former New York slugger, traded to Detroit in the offseason, was booed before each plate appearance -- hours after standing by the critical comments he recently made about Torre.
"I noticed some cheers," Sheffield said. "You have to have been a hell of a player to get a reaction like that."
The Tigers and Yankees, both in a tight race for AL playoff spots, meet seven more times in the next 11 days. This was their first matchup since Detroit's upset in the first round of the 2006 postseason.
Bobby Abreu hit a two-run homer for New York, which fell 5 ½ games behind first-place Boston in the AL East.
"We've run into some pitchers that have pitched well against us," Derek Jeter said. "Those are going to be challenges and unfortunately we haven't been up to it yet."
New York did get some good news earlier in the day: Jason Giambi escaped punishment from commissioner Bud Selig because of the slugger's charitable work and cooperation with baseball's steroids investigator.
Mussina (8-8) won his previous four starts before getting tagged for seven runs - six earned - and nine hits in five innings.
"I didn't feel comfortable out there," he said. "Today I didn't really know where the ball was going all that well. All the things I was doing well the last four games, I couldn't do today."
Verlander (13-4) allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings to win his second consecutive start. One of several Tigers fighting the flu lately, he threw 119 pitches -- one shy of his season high.
"It was a struggle for me to get through five innings. I've had the flu and I'm kind of pretty much over it, but I can't stop coughing," Verlander said.
Four relievers finished up for the Tigers. During one stretch from the sixth through the eighth, eight consecutive Yankees outs came on strikeouts.
"You want to be ahead of these guys after six," Alex Rodriguez said.
Marcus Thames singled with one out in the first and Sheffield hit a grounder wide of third that glanced off Rodriguez's glove for his 10th error.
"You feel bad for Moose. If I make that play, maybe he goes out and pitches a gem," A-Rod said. "I thought I had a pretty good handle on it - it just got away."
Ordonez walked and Guillen drove a 2-2 pitch to right for his third career slam and second this season.
"I thought it was a fly ball and then the ball carried," Abreu said.
Matsui cut it to 4-1 with a two-out RBI single in the bottom half.
Ryan Raburn, starting again for ailing second baseman Placido Polanco, doubled leading off the second and scored on Inge's single. Ordonez added a run-scoring single later in the inning to make it 6-1.
Abreu connected off Verlander in the third, but Casey hit an RBI single in the fifth.
Ivan Rodriguez, who returned to the lineup after being sick, hit a solo shot off Ron Villone in the seventh to make it 8-3.
- Mussina fell to 17-6 in 30 career starts against Detroit.
- Guillen also hit a grand slam at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 7, 2000, off Denny Neagle.
- Ordonez is batting .414 with six homers and 21 RBI in 15 games this month.
- Abreu has 22 RBI in his last 16 games.
- Mussina went 22 1/3 innings without walking a batter before Ordonez's free pass in the first.
- Giambi started at first base for the first time since coming back from a foot injury.
- Matsui was the DH and extended his hitting streak to 11 games.