DETROIT - Justin Verlander found his groove on the mound, and the Detroit Tigers rediscovered their stroke at the plate.
Verlander shut down the New York Yankees with his best stuff since throwing a no-hitter, while Detroit roughed up Mike Mussina and a couple of relievers in its highest-scoring game this season.
The all-star pitcher and reigning AL Rookie of the Year gave up just three hits, and Placido Polanco was one of three Tigers with at least three hits to lead Detroit to a 16-0 win over New York last night.
It was the most one-sided road shutout loss in the Yankees' history, topping a 15-0 defeat at the Chicago White Sox on July 15, 1907, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"We're playing with a sense of urgency right now because our fate is in our own hands," Verlander said. "We need to just go out and have fun and play like we did for most of the first half of the season."
The Tigers took three of the four games and won a series for the first time since sweeping Minnesota from July 17-19. They won back-to-back games for just the third time since having baseball's best record on July 21.
"If you don't get any confidence from taking three out of four against the Yankees, you probably don't have a pulse," said Brandon Inge, who had four RBIs on three hits.
Detroit didn't make up any ground in the AL Central, though, because the Cleveland Indians won their third straight game to maintain a 2 1/2-game lead.
"Everything is so tight that whoever gets hot right now is going to win this thing," Casey said.
The Tigers scored their most runs since beating Baltimore 17-2 last Sept. 15. It was their highest-scoring shutout victory since a 17-0 win at Kansas City on July 19, 1991.
Detroit turned a rout into a laugher with a six-run seventh and finished with 20 hits.
"Everybody is going to talk about the offense, but I really liked the look in Verlander's eye," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He really went at a real good hitting team.
"To me, that was the bright spot of the evening."
New York has lost five of seven games.
Verlander (14-5) struck out six and walked two over seven innings in his best start since throwing a no-hitter on June 12 against Milwaukee. He has won three of his last four starts.
Mussina (8-10) might've pitched himself out of the rotation, lasting just three innings and giving up six runs, nine hits, and a walk.
"Give me a day to digest it, and I'll be able to answer some more questions," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
For the first time in Mussina's 17 seasons, he has allowed at least six earned runs in three straight starts and lasted three innings or fewer in back-to-back outings. Mussina has allowed 19 earned runs in 92/3 innings - an ERA of 17.69 - in his last three starts, and his season ERA has gone from 4.50 to 5.53.
The Yankees yanked Mussina after three innings, then Edwar Ramirez and Sean Henn didn't fare much better.
They combined for the pitching staff's worst performance since the Los Angeles Angels beat the Yankees 18-9 on Aug. 21 - Mussina's previous start.
Polanco, the first to face Ramirez, led off the fourth with a 392-foot shot to left.
Casey led off the fifth with his first triple since 2004 off Henn, then the next six Tigers combined to score three runs on two singles, a double, two walks, and an RBI groundout.
"I only go three bags at a time," joked the slow-footed Casey, who also scored a run from first base on a double.
When Ryan Raburn's RBI single went over Jeter's head, the star shortstop slumped his shoulders with emotions many of his teammates probably shared at that moment as the Tigers went ahead 8-0.
NOTES: Detroit and New York split the season series at four wins apiece. The series drew 174,109 and set a record for a four-game series at Comerica Park, which opened in 2000. Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani was at the game after attending a fund-raiser.
Gary Sheffield was put on the 15-day disabled list because of a sore shoulder that caused him to slump during the second half.
While Sheffield is hitting .279 with 24 homers and 71 RBIs in his first season with Detroit, he is batting just .220 (27-for-123) with three homers and 13 RBIs since the All-Star break.
"No. 1, we've got to get the shoulder right," Leyland said. "No. 2, we can't go on this way with three extra players, with one being a catcher."
The move was retroactive to Aug. 22, and the roster spot was filled by outfielder Timo Perez, who was recalled from Triple-A Toledo. Perez played in three games for the Tigers last month, and had one hit in seven at-bats. He had a .309 batting average with 13 homers and 69 RBIs for the Mud Hens this season.42.33168 -83.04792