Jeter, playing in the 116th game of his postseason career, collected his first five-hit night, homering and scoring three runs. The homer was the 17th of Jeter's postseason career, and he extended his own record for hits in the playoffs to 147.
"What more can you say about Derek's night or Bobby Abreu?" Johnny Damon said. "Those guys came up really big for us. Our offense was clicking."
"He's been so big for us for 11 years here," manager Joe Torre said of Jeter. "I can't say I'm surprised."
Chien-Ming Wang didn't have his best stuff, but the sinkerballer managed to give New York 6 2/3 effective innings, holding Detroit to three runs, all of which came in a rocky fifth inning.
"I wasn't nervous," Wang said. "Joe told me to treat it like any other game."
The Yankees lead the best-of-five series, 1-0, with Game 2 scheduled for Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. Mike Mussina starts for New York, while Justin Verlander gets the nod for Detroit.
"This crowd is our 10th man," said Gary Sheffield, who also drove in a run for the Yankees. "If we can win tomorrow, it would put the pressure on, big-time."
That Abreu was in the middle of the action only seemed appropriate, given what he has meant to the Yankees since being acquired at the trade deadline. When Abreu arrived in the Bronx at the beginning of August, he re-energized a Yankees offense that had been struggling to find consistency.
His two-run hits in the third and sixth innings helped New York jump out to a lead it would never relinquish.
"It's exciting. After we clinched in Toronto, I was so happy, just going to play in October," Abreu said. "I came here to New York and played my first game in the postseason, it's amazing."
Wang survived leadoff doubles by Detroit in both the second and third, thanks to some help from his defense. In the second, Jorge Posada threw out Magglio Ordonez at third base on a botched hit-and-run.
An inning later, Wang induced a double-play ball off the bat of Placido Polanco to end the frame, as Jeter made a nice play on the ball. Robinson Cano took the throw at second, firing to first, where Sheffield -- playing his first playoff game at the position -- made a terrific stretch to complete the play.
"That's what got us going," Sheffield said. "Wang came up with a big pitch to get a ground ball, Jeter made a great play and Cano got it to me as quick as possible. All I was thinking about was Fred McGriff telling me, 'Stretch as long as you can.'"
New York snapped a scoreless tie in the third, hammering starter Nate Robertson for five runs. Damon singled and Jeter doubled, setting up Abreu's two-run double to right.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play," Abreu said. "There were no outs, so all you want to do is just hit a ground ball to second; I was trying to do that and elevate the ball a little bit and knock the two runs in."
"Bobby had a huge day," Jeter said. "I thought for the most part, everybody swung the bat well. Bobby did a great job with runners on to give us that lead."
Sheffield added an RBI single before Jason Giambi drilled a two-run shot, his seventh career postseason homer.
"I just got a mistake up and in," Giambi said. "Thank God it was warm tonight, because it carried out of the ballpark."
The Tigers fought back with three runs in the fifth, getting a solo homer by Craig Monroe to open the inning and RBI doubles by Polanco and Sean Casey. Wang struck out Ordonez, who represented the tying run, to end the inning.
"It's like he doesn't really get rattled. He just keeps coming at you," Posada said. "He knows what he's got to do to be successful, which is to keep the ball down."
With two outs in the sixth, Damon singled and Jeter doubled, putting two runners in scoring position for Abreu. This time, Abreu poked a single past Polanco in the hole at second, scoring both runners to boost the lead to 7-3.
"It would have been tough to hold them off if that ball didn't go through," Damon said. "It was one of those slow-rollers that hardly ever gets through the infield, but it had eyes on it."
Wang retired the first two batters in the seventh before being removed by Torre, as he walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 56,291, tipping his cap as he approached the Yankees' dugout.
"He really settled in," Torre said. "I was very proud of him, after he gave up the three runs, to be able to pitch the way he did the rest of that inning and the following inning."
Mike Myers served up a solo home run to Curtis Granderson, the only batter he would face. Scott Proctor allowed a pair of singles, bringing Ordonez to the plate once again as the tying run, but Proctor got Ordonez to fly out to center, preserving the three-run lead.
Kyle Farnsworth survived a leadoff walk in the eighth, retiring the next three batters. In the past, Torre would have been tempted to call on Mariano Rivera in the eighth, but after battling a muscle strain in his right forearm late in the season, Rivera was left in the bullpen until the ninth, when he closed the game with a scoreless inning.
"It was tough, but we have to give credit to the boys. They came back and did the job," Rivera said of watching the seventh and eighth innings from the bullpen. "We've been working a lot on my arm. I think it's working, definitely. It felt good to be out there, so hopefully we'll come back and do the same thing [in Game 2]."
"It's big for us," Jeter said. "But it means absolutely nothing unless we win tomorrow night."