NEW YORK - Roger Clemens kept giving up hits and getting out of jams. Pitching in a tight pennant race at 45 years old, he still has that heater when he needs it.
Clemens won in his return from a suspension, and Bobby Abreu hit a go-ahead homer that clanked off the foul pole, carrying the New York Yankees to a 5-2 victory yesterday over the Detroit Tigers.
The Rocket allowed Cameron Maybin's first major league home run but pitched out of trouble for six innings, showing a lively fastball and striking out eight to match his season high.
"Sometimes you will your way through games," Clemens said.
Jorge Posada also homered and finished with three hits for the Yankees, who took control by scoring four times in the sixth and won for the 14th time in 19 tries.
Mariano Rivera tossed a hitless ninth for his 20th save in 23 chances, a huge sigh of relief for New York. Rivera struggled in his previous two outings, blowing a save and taking a loss, before consecutive days off.
"I don't have to prove or show anything. I know what I'm capable of doing," Rivera said. "When you have a rest, definitely it helps."
Clemens (5-5) gave up 10 hits, his most since allowing 11 on Sept. 19, 2005. He was working on 10 days' rest after serving a five-game suspension for hitting Alex Rios in the back with a pitch on Aug. 7 during a testy series in Toronto.
"Roger's still capable of striking guys out, which he did. But we did a poor job of hitting with men on," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We didn't score as many runs as we should have."
Clemens walked none in his 353rd win and tagged out Brandon Inge for an unusual caught stealing that helped him escape unscathed in the third.
While he was waiting to pitch again, Clemens worked off a mound in Lexington, Ky., where his son plays minor league ball in Houston's organization.
"I took steps knowing that I was going to have some down time," Clemens said, sporting a pair of glitzy cowboy boots.
One hitter who had Clemens squared up was Gary Sheffield, to the chagrin of the sellout crowd of 54,802. The ex-Yankees slugger went 3-for-3 with a double against Clemens, making him 11-for-18 (.611) lifetime against the right-hander.
All afternoon, Sheffield was booed loudly - again.
"Did it seem like it bothered me? Nah, it didn't," he said. "Just means I'm special. You can get that kind of reaction from 60,000 people, it means you're special."
The fans roared when Kyle Farnsworth fanned Sheffield in the seventh. Farnsworth also struck out Magglio Ordonez on a 98-mph fastball to finish a perfect inning, another encouraging sign for the much-maligned reliever.
Luis Vizcaino pitched a scoreless eighth.
Posada hit a solo shot off Chad Durbin (7-6) in the second, putting New York ahead. Ryan Raburn's bases-loaded sacrifice fly tied it in the fourth.
The Tigers had runners at the corners in the third when Marcus Thames struck out on a 3-2 pitch. With Maybin running from first, Posada fired toward second, but Clemens reached out and intercepted the throw with a surprising stab.
Inge, who had broken for the plate, was trapped off third and tagged out by Clemens for an extremely rare 2-2-1 double play that ended the inning.
Clemens and Posada said they've worked on that play in spring training, but Posada pointed out that they'd probably never used it before.
"It's one of those things where you try to catch somebody off guard, and we did," Posada said.
After Maybin's homer put Detroit up 2-1, Derek Jeter singled to start the sixth, and Abreu sliced a drive that caromed off the left-field foul pole and into the stands. It was his 14th homer this season and ninth since the All-Star break.
Robinson Cano hit a two-out RBI single to left off reliever Tim Byrdak, and Maybin didn't get much on his throw home. Andy Phillips followed with an RBI single off Jason Grilli to make it 5-2.
Maybin was called up Friday and had a rough big league debut in New York's 6-1 victory. But the 20-year-old outfielder, considered one of the top prospects in baseball, began to display his talents yesterday.
He had a perfectly executed hit-and-run single for his first career hit, then homered to center for a 2-1 Tigers lead in the fifth.
Maybin got both souvenir balls back and said he would probably give them to his father.
"Second big league game, and I hit a home run off Roger Clemens. I can tell my kids about that," Maybin said. "It felt pretty good to get one off of him."
Afterward, Maybin flashed a gleaming grin to teammates.
"They told me it was OK to smile," he said.