Kevin Youkilis and the Boston Red Sox asserted themselves against a fellow contender. Not that the Detroit Tigers put up much of a fight.
Youkilis hit his third homer in two nights to help Boston to a 5-1 win over the Tigers on Thursday night, wrapping up a four-game series with its sixth win in seven games.
Boston took three of four from the Tigers, sending them to their sixth loss in seven games. Youkilis hit three homers at spacious Comerica Park to give him eight there in his career. He doesn't have more than two at any other park away from home.
``Our entire staff did a poor, poor job the entire series against Youkilis,'' Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. ``Not with the thought process but executing pitches. We just gave him cookie after cookie and he just beat our brains out.''
Leyland took some solace in the Tigers' approach against Boston's ace. Josh Beckett struck out eight, getting career No. 1,000 along the way.
``We had good at-bats off Beckett. I thought we battled him hard,'' Leyland said. ``One thing you have to do when you face a guy like Beckett, you got to hold down the other team. We didn't do that.''
Justin Verlander (1-6) gave up five runs on nine hits in six innings. He struck out five, but allowed Youkilis' two-run homer in the fifth and Jason Varitek's two-run single and Jacoby Ellsbury's sacrifice fly in the second inning.
In Thursday night's other AL games, it was Texas 5, Seattle 0; New York 6, Cleveland, 3; Chicago 6, Minnesota 2; and Baltimore 4, Kansas City 1.
The Red Sox (23-14) are starting to make noise in the AL East, where the only other team above .500 is Tampa Bay (18-16). New York lost two of three to Cleveland and was swept by these same Tigers last week.
Part of the reason for that is Beckett, who improved to 4-2.
``I made pitches when I needed them, and that's what it boils down to,'' he said. ``If I hadn't been able to make a couple key pitches, I would have given up a lot more runs. I had all four pitches working when I needed them, and that's big.''
Rangers 5, Mariners 0
In Seattle, Ian Kinsler hit a two-run homer and then got hit by a pitch, setting up a fourth-inning brawl.
Richie Sexson charged the mound and flung his helmet at Rangers starter Kason Gabbard after the left-hander threw a pitch eye-high to him in the bottom half.
``I'm 6-foot-8. He can hit corners at will,'' Sexson said. ``6-8 and all of a sudden he's up that high? I'm a huge target. How hard is it to hit me? Hit me in the back or thigh. Up near my face is no good.''
Both benches cleared, but no punches were thrown. Sexson was ejected.
``If you look at the replay, Gabbard was nowhere near Sexson's head,'' Rangers manager Ron Washington said. ``I guess he was a little frustrated and things got out of control.''
Gabbard was not ejected, but was removed two batters later with what appeared to be a leg injury and relieved by Franklyn German (1-0), who pitched 1 2-3 innings.
Gabbard, who had just come off the disabled list gave up just two hits in 3 2-3 innings. He and German combined with Jamey Wright, Eddie Guardado and Frank Francisco to shut out the Mariners for the second night in a row, after a 2-0 win on Wednesday. Seattle hasn't scored in 22 innings.
Yankees 6, Indians 3
In New York, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano and Wilson Betemit homered and Mike Mussina won his fourth straight start.
Mussina (5-3) went five innings for his 255th career victory. Joba Chamberlain pitched an easy eighth and Mariano Rivera closed for his ninth save.
Cano's homer finished Paul Byrd (1-3) in the seventh and Betemit, subbing for the injured Alex Rodriguez, met reliever Masa Kobayashi with a drive over the center-field fence. The Yankees tied a season high with their four home runs.
White Sox 6, Twins 2
In Chicago, Jermaine Dye homered for the third straight game and Juan Uribe added a go-ahead two-run drive in the fifth.
John Danks (3-3) made it through five innings, giving up six hits and two runs, and Chicago won for just the second time in nine games.
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire returned after missing five games following the death of his brother, but his first game back was an abbreviated one. He was ejected for the 37th time in his career and first time this season in the sixth inning by plate umpire Doug Eddings after a double steal by the White Sox.
Kevin Slowey (0-2) allowed three runs and four hits in five innings for the Twins.
Orioles 4, Royals 1
In Kansas City, Mo., Daniel Cabrera threw a three-hitter to remain perfect against Kansas City, Nick Markakis backed him with a three-run homer, and Baltimore snapped a five-game skid.
Cabrera (3-1) struck out seven and walked one in his fifth career complete game and first since Sept. 28, 2006, against the Yankees. In seven career starts against the Royals, the right-hander who led the AL last year with 18 losses, is 4-0.
Markakis connected off rookie Luke Hochevar (2-2) in the third inning as the Orioles won for just the third time in 11 games.

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