NEW YORK (AP) -- Johnny Damon hit a tiebreaking homer and New York got lights-out relief pitching from a pair of rookies Sunday, sending Chien-Ming Wang and the Yankees to a 9-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Wilson Betemit had four RBIs and Hideki Matsui drove in three early runs for the surging Yankees, who took the final three meetings in a key four-game series between AL playoff contenders.
With his 1,149th win as manager of the Yankees, Joe Torre tied Hall of Famer Casey Stengel for second place on the franchise list behind Joe McCarthy (1,460). Damon finished with three hits, helping New York (70-54) win for the 15th time in 20 games to match a season high at 16 games above .500.
Playing without Derek Jeter, given a rare day off, the Yankees took advantage of an error by slick-fielding third baseman Brandon Inge in the fifth and broke it open on Betemit's three-run double off Aquilino Lopez with two outs in the eighth.
Betemit started at shortstop for Jeter and played a big role as New York improved to 27-11 since the All-Star break. The Yankees began the day five games behind first-place Boston in the AL East and right in the middle of a close wild-card race.
The Tigers, who have lost eight of 12, dropped to 15-23 since the break. They entered 1 1/2 games back of first-place Cleveland in the AL Central.
The Yankees open another big series Monday night with the first of three games at the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels, a longtime nemesis.
Detroit heads home for three key games against the Indians starting Tuesday, then hosts the Yankees four times next weekend.
Wang (14-6) rebounded from consecutive rough outings, allowing three runs and nine hits in six inconsistent innings. Joba Chamberlain and Edwar Ramirez combined for three perfect innings to finish it.
Jeremy Bonderman (10-6) fell to 0-5 in his last seven starts. He walked five batters in six innings.
With the delirious sellout crowd of 55,071 chanting his name again, Chamberlain worked a perfect seventh against the middle of Detroit's dangerous lineup. He got Gary Sheffield to pop up on an eye-high, 99 mph fastball, then struck out Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen to preserve a 4-3 lead.
The rookie sensation has 11 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings since being called up from Triple-A on Aug. 7.
Ramirez struck out all three batters in the eighth, then worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his first career save.
With the score tied at 3 in the sixth, Damon hit a solo shot into the right-field upper deck off Bonderman for his first home run since July 31.
After Robinson Cano was intentionally walked for the second time, Betemit added a two-out RBI single in the seventh off Zach Miner. Andy Phillips followed with a run-scoring single to make it 6-3.
Damon singled leading off the first and scored on Matsui's bases-loaded sacrifice fly. In the third, Matsui bounced an RBI single through a drawn-in infield.
Mike Rabelo's run-scoring double cut it to 2-1 in the fourth, but Wang struck out Inge and retired Cameron Maybin with runners at second and third.
Wang appeared to get a bit rattled in the fifth, a rare occurrence. Detroit went ahead 3-2 with the help of a balk, an easy double steal and Wang's run-scoring wild pitch.
Ordonez had an RBI single, too, but Wang again limited the damage. He fanned Guillen with a runner on third and one out before Ryan Raburn bunted back to the mound for an easy third out.
Bobby Abreu's leadoff single in the fifth sent a ducking Bonderman tumbling to the ground. Alex Rodriguez then hit a grounder that went right through Inge for an error, leaving runners at second and third. Matsui's second sacrifice fly tied it at 3.