DETROIT -- At the moment Rafael Soriano induced the final out of a challenging ninth inning, Joe Girardi was already up the stairs in the visiting clubhouse, having been ejected after tossing his cap in a frenzied on-field argument four innings earlier.
Girardi couldn't complain about the end result as the Yankees secured a split of their four-game series with the Tigers, posting a 4-3 victory, but the manager said he was still perturbed by the sequence of events that led umpire Tim Welke to toss him from the game.
"These are important games, right?" Girardi said. "And when an umpire clearly makes the wrong call and it costs us, what do you think, I'm going to sit on my hands? Come on. I'm gonna fight for my guys. It's an unfortunate incident. I know he didn't try to make a mistake but, you know, he did."
Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez hit back-to-back home runs on consecutive eighth-inning pitches from Joaquin Benoit, and Soriano pitched around trouble for a four-out save, helping the Yankees regroup after Andy Dirks' controversial fifth-inning double.
With the game tied, Dirks lifted a pop fly off Kuroda that plopped into left field, and Welke, the third-base umpire, initially raised both arms to signal that the ball was foul before emphatically pointing toward fair territory.
The ball scooted past left fielder Raul Ibanez, who chased it as Quintin Berry scored from first base. Welke admitted to being "a little quick" to trigger the foul call, but said he saw the ball kick up chalk from the foul line and insisted his call didn't affect the play.
"I don't think it had any impact," Welke said. "I've watched the replay, and I don't think there was any impact on the outfielder. I don't think Ibanez ever even saw me. We got the call right."
Girardi's contention was not with that the ball was fair -- it was -- but that Welke's call may have led Ibanez to momentarily pull up. Girardi tried to protest the game but was told by Welke that he could not because the play constitutes a judgment call.
"It only takes a split second for the ball to get by you, and he probably doesn't score and we're in a 2-2 game," Girardi said. "Now I can't tell you how the game's going to end up, but at the time, with rain coming, that's a huge play."
Ibanez said didn't see Welke's call, but he heard the fans' disappointment at what they thought was a foul ball, then recovered to chase the hit when the cheering started.
"To be honest with you, I thought the ball was foul myself," Ibanez said. "If anything, I thought it might have hit the outside of the line maybe, but Joe went out there and he fought for us."
Allowed some extra rope to argue by Welke, Girardi was eventually tossed and stomped off the field, mimicking the indecisive call by waving his arms before pointing foul and then fair.
"I was letting [the umpires] know," Girardi said. "I don't play to the crowd. That's not my personality."
The Yankees went back into the driver's seat in the eighth inning, posting their eighth win in their last 20 contests.
Teixeira tied the game with his 21st home run, a blast to right field, and the red-hot Chavez instantly gave the Yankees the lead with an opposite-field shot into the Detroit bullpen, his 12th.
"That was a fun eighth inning," Teixeira said. "I was trying to hit a home run there. I don't do it all the time. But I know against a guy like Benoit, he's not going to give up a lot of hits, so you just try to click him. You try to get a good pitch to hit and I got a 2-0 pitch to hit."
Chavez wrapped up a scorching series in which he went 9-for-16 by marking the eighth occasion this season the Yankees have hit back-to-back homers.
"We always feel like we have a chance to win," Chavez said. "I think early in the year, we'd been winning those games. I think that's the only difference. We always feel like we're able to come back, regardless of the score."
Clay Rapada recorded two outs in the seventh inning after relieving Kuroda, putting himself in line for the victory.
Kuroda allowed three runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings, also serving up a two-run homer to Alex Avila in the fifth inning. He said he'd tried to keep a low profile as Girardi was going to war for his players.
"I think it's a testament to how passionate we are in this game," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "I wanted to say something, but I think Joe said everything I wanted to say."
The Yankees were limited to two runs in 6 1/3 innings by Detroit starter Doug Fister, scoring twice in the second inning on Ibanez's RBI triple to deep center and Ichiro Suzuki's single.
"This team beat us the way they beat you," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "They hit the ball out of the ballpark. Today, we didn't keep them in the ballpark when we needed to. [Curtis] Granderson had a big homer last night. And that's how they beat you."
Girardi has been ejected three times this season, all against the Tigers, and didn't seem disappointed to be packing his bags to leave Detroit. His only concern is how large of a fine will be awaiting him from the league office when the Yankees get to their next stop.
"I'm extremely happy for what our guys accomplished today," Girardi said. "That doesn't mean I'm not going to be perturbed when I get a letter."