DETROIT - Looking big picture, one huge positive outweighed the negatives for the Yankees last night. They saw a version of lefthander CC Sabathia they hadn't seen since Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS, when he was their unquestioned ace.

But short term, there was plenty to be frustrated about in a 2-1 loss to the Tigers on a damp, chilly night at Comerica Park.

Sabathia took a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning, courtesy of Mark Teixeira's fourth homer, before the Tigers -- who have the best record in the majors at 11-2 -- scored twice. The Yankees, who turned three double plays behind Sabathia, fell to 6-7.

"It's frustrating,'' said Sabathia (0-3), who allowed two runs and seven hits in eight innings to lower his ERA to 4.35 from 5.68. "Especially a 1-0, tight game, you kind of want to shut it down and get us back in the dugout.''

Rajai Davis led off the seventh with a single and took second on Ian Kinsler's fly ball to deep left. After Miguel Cabrera grounded out, the Yankees intentionally walked Victor Martinez, who had stung two balls that resulted in spectacular catches by Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury.

But the strategy did not pay off. J.D. Martinez sent a one-hop smash off the glove of shortstop Didi Gregorius to tie it at 1-1.

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"CC pitched a really good game for us, and if I would have made that play, we would have gotten out of the inning,'' Gregorius said. "It's bad that I couldn't make the play.''

Yoenis Cespedes then singled up the middle and Ellsbury, who doesn't have the best of arms, chose not to try for the plodding Victor Martinez at the plate. "I just didn't think I had a shot at him,'' Ellsbury said.

Instead, he threw to third and J.D. Martinez was caught in a rundown for the final out, but Victor Martinez scored ahead of the tag to make it 2-1.

In the eighth, Chase Headley singled with none out and was sacrificed to second by Stephen Drew. Gregorius lined a single to center on an 0-and-2 pitch from Alfredo Simon and Davis momentarily misplayed it, but third-base coach Joe Espada already had held up Headley at third.

Former Yankee Joba Chamberlain added to the drama, replacing Simon and getting Ellsbury to ground sharply into a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.

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"Got a good pitch to hit, everything you want,'' Ellsbury said. "I'll take 600 more of those swings the rest of the season. Unfortunately, I just hit it at the wrong person.''

Simon (3-0) allowed one run, seven hits and no walks and struck out seven in 71/3 innings. Joakim Soria pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save.

Still, the performance of the 34-year-old Sabathia was encouraging. He showed flashes of his pre-2013 self during his first two starts of the season but didn't come close to putting it together the way he did on this night.

"He's right where he needs to be,'' catcher Brian McCann said. "Third straight start I think he looks great. Very encouraged.''

Added Joe Girardi: "It's unfortunate because I thought he threw the ball exceptional against a very tough lineup.''

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The Tigers came in tied for second in the majors in runs but were mostly held in check. "I came in after one inning and told Chris Young, 'That should be illegal,' '' Sabathia said of their lineup. "Once you think it's done, they've got more hitters coming.''