Trailing by five in the bottom of the seventh inning, Detroit rallied for four runs on five singles and an error against a combination of Sabathia and reliever David Robertson. The Tigers nearly batted through the order and tied the game before Ramon Santiago grounded out with runners on first and second.
"It's not the way you want to see it go, but we ended up getting the big out, the final out," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "And then tacking on some runs the next inning, that was big."
It had all the makings off another miraculous comeback. At least until the top half of the eighth.
Coke entered the game for the Tigers looking for a quick 1-2-3 inning so his offense could get back to work. He would have no such luck as the Yankees pegged him for two runs on three hits.
"Cokey had a rough inning," Leyland said. "If we could've held them to the one run, who knows, it's probably a different game."
The Yankees did to Coke what they do to mostly everyone: battle off pitch after pitch before finally getting a mistake and making the pitcher pay. Coke said he didn't make many mistakes, only one. But it resulted in a line-drive RBI single by Mark Teixeira.
"I located all but one pitch. The pitch to Teixeira was a changeup away, and it just didn't have any fade or anything like that on it," Coke said. "I got him to get the ball on the ground, but in that particular case I prefer him [to] swing and miss."
Coke only got two swings and misses in his 25 pitches. One of those came against Curtis Granderson to end the inning, and the other came against Eric Chavez in an 11-pitch at-bat, in which Chavez fouled off seven of the next eight pitches before knocking in another insurance run with a groundout to second base.
Coke has now allowed six runs on 10 hits and two walks in his last 3 2/3 innings. He said earlier in the week that he's been uncomfortable on the mound, but after the game he was more encouraged than anything.
"My last two outings were my concern, and I made the adjustments that I needed to make and threw the ball really well tonight," Coke said. "Results-wise I'm not necessarily upset, because I felt like I made all but one pitch tonight."
In the end, the seven-run hole just proved too much to climb out of. Five days after receiving a standing ovation from the home crowd, Anibal Sanchez departed without recording an out in the fourth inning.
The damage came mostly from Granderson. The Yankees center fielder entered the day 0-for-10 with five strikeouts in the series. He broke that slump with an RBI single in a two-run first inning.
Granderson then hit a three-run shot into the right-field tunnel in the third inning -- his 30th home run of the season. The Yankees started the fourth with a double and two straight singles before Sanchez was pulled having allowed seven runs.
"That's the day where everything doesn't work," Sanchez said. "Everything I threw was really off today. ... I need to keep working. I know what I can do. I just need to throw the ball, make some outs, get some quick innings."
Sanchez was the only one of the three new acquisitions to have a bad night. Jeff Baker made his Tigers debut after being traded from the Cubs and accounted for Detroit's first three runs -- doubling and scoring in the fourth inning and then plating two with a single off Sabathia in the sixth. He was previously 0-for-4 vs. the big lefty.
Omar Infante hit what would've been the game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth had things turned out differently in the top of the inning.
"Well, we lost the game, so you don't find much silver lining, but I told the guys afterwards it was a nice little run and it was a great effort tonight," Leyland said. "And that's all you can ask for as a manager. I mean, we had them on their feet. But when you make mistakes against Yankees hitters, you're going to pay."
The Tigers remained a half-game back in the American League Central after the White Sox lost, 2-1, to Kansas City.