Series: Game 4 of 4

Series tied 2-2 (as of 7/18)

Game 1: Thursday, July 15
NY Yankees5Final
Game 2: Friday, July 16
NY Yankees0Final
Game 3: Saturday, July 17
NY Yankees5Final
Game 4: Sunday, July 18
NY Yankees2Final

Yankees 2

(57-33, 24-21 away)

Tigers 4

(44-47, 23-21 home)

1:05 PM ET, July 18, 2004

Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan 

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NYY 000200000 2 7 0
DET 12000010 - 4 10 0

W: N. Robertson (9-4)

L: J. Lieber (7-6)

S: U. Urbina (15)

Pena goes 3-for-3, with one HR

DETROIT (AP) -- One year after being the butt of jokes for their futility, it's tough to make fun of the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers surpassed their 2003 wins total -- with 2½ months left in the season -- beating the New York Yankees 4-2 on Sunday behind Nate Robertson's pitching and Carlos Pena's hitting.

Detroit (44-47) set an AL record for losses last year by going 43-119, a loss shy of baseball's post-1900 record for setbacks.

"It's fun when you can crush somebody and land your punches, to use a boxing analogy," said Pena, who was 3-for-3, including a solo homer.

The Tigers easily set a record for fewest games needed to surpass their wins total from the previous year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous mark of 106 was set by the 1962 Philadelphia Phillies (48-58 after going 47-107) and the 1989 Baltimore Orioles (55-51 following a 54-107 season).

"I'm not going to go celebrate," Detroit manager Alan Trammell said.

Many questioned Ivan Rodriguez for signing a $40 million, four-year contract with the lowly Tigers after helping Florida win the World Series. Some laughed when the star catcher later said he was going to help Detroit make the playoffs, for the first time since 1987.

Even if the Tigers don't win the AL Central, they have moved forward by playing relatively meaningful games in July.

"It is a big deal. We are playing for something," said Rodriguez, leading the league with a .364 batting average. "We are trying to make the playoffs, and we can if we keep playing the way we are right now."

The Tigers split the four-game series against the Yankees and won the season series from the AL champions 4-3.

"They're certainly 100 percent better than last year," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "And I give Trammell the credit for keeping it together."

Robertson (9-4) allowed two runs and six hits in eight innings. In his last 11 starts, Robertson's only loss was on July 5 on the road against the Yankees, when he gave up seven runs in just 1 2-3 innings.

"With the lineup we have and the players we brought over, people are still going to ask, `Who is Nate Robertson?' " the 26-year-old left-hander said. "That's just fine with me."

Ugueth Urbina allowed a leadoff double to Derek Jeter in the ninth, then finished for his 15th save in 17 chances. He struck out Gary Sheffield, retired Alex Rodriguez on a flyout and then, with the sellout crowd of 40,132 on its feet, fanned Ruben Sierra.

Jon Lieber (7-6), coming off consecutive wins, gave up four runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings.

"I've got to make some better pitches, especially early in the game," Lieber said. "It's been that way all year. I've been digging myself holes."

In the first inning, Carlos Guillen hit his ninth triple, third in the AL, and scored on Rodriguez's sacrifice fly. The Tigers went ahead 3-0 in the second on Marcus Thames' RBI double and Brandon Inge's sacrifice fly.

After Sierra's two-run homer pulled New York to 3-2 in the fourth, Pena hit his 12th homer of the season in the seventh.

"I like the feel around here," Trammell said. "Guys are playing with confidence. Who knows what might happen the next few weeks?

"We've certainly made progress, but we have to carry this through."

Game notes

Yankees RHP Kevin Brown, who hasn't pitched since June 9 because of a back injury, threw 60 pitches in the bullpen before the game and is scheduled to make a rehab appearance Tuesday. ... Torre said his other ailing starter, RHP Mike Mussina, will not throw for five days to rest his stiff right elbow. ... Robertson, who pitched in his 34th career game, was acquired from Florida before the 2003 season in the Mark Redman trade. He was 1-2 last year in Detroit, and 9-7 at Triple-A Toledo... New York's Bernie Williams had a single in the seventh, ending his longest hitless streak at 23 at-bats. ... New York is 10-12 at Detroit since 2000, when the Tigers moved to Comerica Park. Detroit sold out three straight home games for the first time in three years. ... Detroit's Bobby Higginson was removed from the lineup because of an irritated left eye. ... Torre turned 64. ... Sierra became the ninth Yankee with 10 or more homers.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press