DETROIT - The Yankees return to the Bronx in a heck of a lot better shape than when they left 10 days ago.
And while they're not the hottest baseball club in the city, they're more than eager to meet the Mets this weekend.
The Yankees completed a three-city, 10-game trip an impressive 7-3 with a 2-1 victory over the Tigers Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.
The Tigers entered the series with baseball's best record and extended it to 11-2 by beating the Yankees Monday night. But after the Yankees (9-7) took the next three, the Mets (13-3) -- who will visit the Bronx Friday night riding an 11-game winning streak -- became the team with the top record.
"It's going to be awesome. [The Stadium] should be rocking," said Alex Rodriguez, who had Thursday off and remains at 658 career homers, two shy of Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list. "I know they're playing great baseball and will be excited. They'll be ready and so will we."
The Yankees managed only three hits, but a second straight standout performance from Masahiro Tanaka, a couple of superb stops at third base by Chase Headley, some aggressive baserunning by Jacoby Ellsbury and more dominant work by Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller led the way.
"It's not always conventional the way you win games," Headley said. "That's what good teams do."
Tanaka, who at first did not look comfortable in the 33-degree first-pitch temperature, allowed one run and three hits in 61/3 innings. He walked two and struck out six. Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez allowed one run and one hit in 61/3 innings but committed a key balk that allowed Ellsbury to tie it at 1-1 in the sixth.
The Yankees pushed ahead in the eighth against lefthander Tom Gorzelanny (0-1). Ellsbury doubled into the gap in left-center and Brett Gardner sacrificed him to third. An intentional walk to Carlos Beltran brought up Brian McCann, 0-for-16 in his career against Gorzelanny. McCann took a ball before shooting one off Miguel Cabrera's glove at first, and the 3-4-3 putout allowed Ellsbury to score to make it 2-1.
"That's what he can do; he puts a lot of pressure on a defense," Joe Girardi said of Ellsbury. "We know he can change the game in a lot of different ways."
Betances (3-0, 0.00 ERA), who came on with one out in the seventh, struck out two in a perfect eighth, with his fastball reaching 98 mph. Miller improved to 6-for-6 in saves with a perfect ninth, striking out two. "We have as much power as we've ever had," Girardi said of his bullpen.
Tanaka struggled through a 23-pitch first, but the damage was minimal. Leadoff man Anthony Gose doubled and scored on Victor Martinez's sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.
"It was actually pretty cold out there," Tanaka said through his translator.
McCann said it didn't matter. "He had everything going," the catcher said. "He's the same as he was last year. His stuff speaks for itself."
As, for now, does the Yankees' record after a 3-6 start in which they looked far worse than that. "We knew we were better than our record showed, but it took some time for us to get rolling," Mark Teixeira said.
Said Girardi of the opening week: "Did we play bad? Yeah, we played very poorly. But I said I think this team is much better than what we've played and we came out on this road trip and showed we can play baseball and we can win different types of games."