By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees regained their batting stroke Tuesday after slugging a pair of home runs to power past the Detroit Tigers 6-2 and keep pace with the Tampa Bay Rays atop the American League East.
Tampa Bay matched the Yanks for best record in Major League Baseball by drubbing the AL West-leading Texas Rangers 10-1.
The Bronx Bombers, who had lost their last two games scoring just one run and registering only eight hits, did their damage without slugger Alex Rodriguez, who sat out after leaving Monday's contest with a strained left calf muscle.
New York was helped by a lack of control from Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who slipped to 13-8.
The hard-throwing righthander labored through 35 pitches in the first inning, yielding two hits, two walks and two runs that scored on a line single to left by Nick Swisher.
Verlander lasted just five innings with his pitch count at 114. He gave up three runs on five hits while walking five.
Yankees captain Derek Jeter said the pinstripers cashed in opportunities created by the Tiger pitcher's wildness.
"He's no fun to face," Jeter said about Verlander. "But we took advantage early when had trouble with his control."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi praised the performance by Sabathia, who took the American League lead in wins by limiting Detroit to two runs on five hits over seven innings.
"He's been huge for us," New York's skipper said about his big lefthander. "CC is just so consistent. When we needed a win, he went out and got it."
Sabathia withstood the shock of seeing his first pitch of the game sail over the leftfield fence by former Yankees minor leaguer Austin Jackson that gave Detroit a short-lived 1-0 lead.
"That was a little weird," said 6-foot-7 (2.01m) Sabathia. "I don't think I've ever given up a first-pitch homer. Us getting two runs right back in our half was huge."
New York had lost five of their previous eight games to lose their division lead over the Rays.
The Tigers, who had won three in a row, fell to 58-61.
(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)