Updated at 12:14 a.m., Aug. 8, 2012
DETROIT (AP) — The Tigers are a half-game out of first place, and they know who to thank.
Miguel Cabrera homered for the third straight game and drove in three runs, and Detroit held off the New York Yankees 6-5 on Tuesday night for their sixth straight victory.
“I’ve never seen anything like him,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I’ve been in this game for 50 years, and I’ve never seen opposite-field power like Miguel Cabrera. Never. Anybody.”
New York scored twice off closer Jose Valverde in the ninth inning and had runners at second and third when Curtis Granderson popped up for the final out. The AL East leaders have lost 12 of 18.
Cabrera is making a run at the AL MVP award, hitting .333 since the All-Star break with 11 homers and 24 RBIs in 24 games. Andy Dirks added three hits and two RBIs for the Tigers, who have won 16 of 17 at home for the first time since 1919.
Detroit moved within a half-game of first-place Chicago in the AL Central.
“We’re doing exactly what we want to do,” catcher Alex Avila said. “We can taste the playoffs, and we want them.”
Rick Porcello (9-6) picked up the win, allowing three runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out three and didn’t walk a batter.
Porcello is 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his last four home starts against the Yankees. Three relievers finished, with Valverde staggering to his 22nd save in 26 tries.
Ichiro Suzuki hit an RBI single with two outs in the ninth and Russell Martin followed with a run-scoring double to left. Suzuki was held at third, however, and Granderson popped out to first.
“It was there, but I popped it up, so I obviously wasn’t even close to it,” Granderson said. “It’s just one loss, and I know it doesn’t matter if we lose that way or 10-0, but it was frustrating.”
Phil Hughes (11-9) struggled after dominating the Tigers the previous time he faced them. After tossing a four-hitter on June 3, he lasted just 4 1-3 innings this time, giving up four runs and eight hits.
The game was scoreless until Eric Chavez’s two-run homer for the Yankees in the fourth. Chavez had three hits against Justin Verlander on Monday.
Cabrera made it 2-1 with a line drive into the left-field stands in the bottom of the inning. The homer was his 19th at Comerica Park, tying the stadium record he set in 2008 and matched in 2009. Jhonny Peralta made it 2-all with a two-out double off Hughes.
“Nothing Miggy does surprises me anymore,” Avila said. “I’ll only be surprised if he’s not the MVP. He’s unbelievable.”
Brennan Boesch didn’t drive in a run, but he singled on a nine-pitch at-bat in the second inning and again on a 12-pitch at-bat in the fourth — something that Hughes acknowledged fatigued him.
“I was pretty tired myself — that was like doing a full round of batting practice in one at-bat,” Boesch said. “I think every hitter knows that if you have lengthy at-bats, it helps the team, because a pitcher’s whole job is to have quick innings. He was making good pitches, but I kept fouling them off.”
Leyland agreed, especially when it came to Boesch’s fourth-inning hit that set up Peralta’s tying double.
“I think we won the game with that at-bat,” the manager said. “I don’t know how many pitches it was, but it got Hughes’ pitch count from nothing to something, and that was the key to the game.”
Cabrera chased Hughes with a two-run double in the fifth, and Andy Dirks’ run-scoring double gave the Tigers a three-run lead in the next inning.
“He’s one of the best hitters in the game, and you never want to let him beat you,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Cabrera. “The problem is that if you pitch around him, the next guy (Prince Fielder) is pretty good, too. That’s the best 3-4 combination in the game.”
Suzuki’s RBI double pulled the Yankees to 5-3, but Dirks restored the three-run cushion with an RBI single in the eighth.
NOTES: Derek Jeter’s fourth-inning single was his first hit against Porcello in 14 career at-bats. … Detroit’s batting practice was televised, and Cabrera and Prince Fielder put on a show for the viewers. Cabrera hit a homer off the Al Kaline statue above the stands in right-center, while Fielder hit a ball into the Wildcat Bleachers on the second deck in left. Neither location has ever been reached during a game. … The game was delayed briefly after Chavez hit reliever Cody Eppley in the head with a throw from third. Eppley was in the process of catching a toss from the plate umpire and didn’t see Chavez’s throw. He was checked by the Yankees’ training staff, but laughed it off.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)