All of a sudden, after six dominant innings, Verlander was losing.
Welcome to the new Yankee Stadium.
"It's very frustrating," Verlander said. "It's very disappointing to throw the ball as well as I did and come away with a loss."
Sabathia (9-6) tossed seven shutout innings, working out of trouble all afternoon for his eighth victory in 11 decisions. Mariano Rivera got three quick outs for a save and Derek Jeter made an outstanding defensive play in the ninth.
"The game had a feeling that one mistake, one pitch, one swing was going to be the difference," Rodriguez said.
Melky Cabrera legged out an infield single to drive in the second run against Verlander (10-5), who took a three-hit shutout into the seventh before running into some tough luck.
Rodriguez led off with a high fly toward Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch. Verlander watched it the whole way, then smiled in disbelief after the ball carried over the fence.
"If it went out by 10 rows, all right. But just scraping the back of the wall is frustrating. I'd rather a guy hit it 10 miles," Verlander said. "I didn't think he hit it very well, but it had the right trajectory and he hit it to the right part of the field."
It was Rodriguez's 571st home run, two behind Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew for ninth place.
"He's throwing 98 [mph]," Rodriguez said about Verlander, coming off his second trip to the All-Star game. "I think he supplied a lot of the power."
Robinson Cano singled with two outs and went to third on Nick Swisher's soft double inside the left-field line. Cabrera hit a slow roller to shortstop, with Swisher doing all he could to distract Adam Everett as he crossed over to third.
"Very smart baseball," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Everett's throw appeared to beat Cabrera by the slimmest margin, but he was called safe by first base umpire Jeff Nelson. Cabrera clapped his hands as Cano scored, putting New York ahead 2-0.
Jeter made a signature jump throw from deep in the shortstop hole to get Brandon Inge for the second out of the ninth.
"That was an incredible play," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "He made such a strong throw. It was perfect."
The Yankees, who have won 15 of 20, are 40-22 since Rodriguez came off the disabled list May 8 -- the best record in the majors. New York also improved to 18-5 against AL Central teams.
The first-place Tigers fell to 4-12 against the AL East.
"Hopefully, sweep them tomorrow," Sabathia said.
Verlander beat Sabathia on April 27, pitching seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts and no walks to start his seven-game winning streak.
This time, the right-hander yielded only two hits through his first 5 2/3 innings -- singles by Jeter in the first and fourth.
"That's as good as we've seen him. He was throwing every pitch for strikes. He's added a slider to his repertoire," Rodriguez said. "You just hope for a mistake. These guys, it's hard to score three or four runs against guys like CC and Verlander. We knew one or two runs would win the game."
A gritty Sabathia allowed five hits and three walks but stranded seven runners. Pitching like the $161 million ace the Yankees were counting on when they signed him, the big lefty also induced a pair of double-play grounders.
With runners at second and third in the sixth, Sabathia retired Ryan Raburn on a shallow fly and Inge on a soft looper.
"We had CC on the ropes a couple of times," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We just couldn't capitalize. Most people talk about guys who have high on-base percentages, but I'd rather take the guy who will drive them in."
- David Cone threw out the first pitch on the 10th anniversary of his perfect game against the Montreal Expos at old Yankee Stadium. His catcher in that game was the same one as Saturday: Girardi.
- New York reliever Damaso Marte (left shoulder inflammation) pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in his second rehab appearance for the Gulf Coast League Yankees.