What they didn't do was gain ground in the AL Central race.
"All we can do is continue to go out, try and win whenever we can, play consistent," Nathan said. "Don't focus on the results, but concentrate on each at-bat and each pitch and have fun competing."
Porcello pitched eight impressive innings to set a career high for victories, and the Tigers snapped New York's five-game winning streak Tuesday night, beating the Yankees 5-2. But division-leading Kansas City rallied past Minnesota with a ninth-inning homer, leaving Detroit still 1 1/2 games behind.
"They're playing really, really good baseball," Nathan said.
The Tigers haven't played all that well in August, but they've now won three in a row, and the vibe at Comerica Park on Tuesday was a positive one. Nathan has struggled all season, and he's had a strained relationship with Detroit fans of late, but the home crowd was chanting "Let's go, Joe!" in the ninth as the right-hander worked through his first perfect inning since Aug. 5.
"It was nice," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Really, it would be a great side story if Joe could run the gamut here the last 30 or so games and endear himself to Tiger fans again."
Porcello (15-8) joined teammate Max Scherzer as the American League's only 15-game winners, allowing two runs and nine hits. The 25-year-old right-hander threw a shutout in his previous start against Tampa Bay, and he blanked the Yankees until Jacoby Ellsbury's homer in the fifth.
Ellsbury added another solo shot in the eighth.
Brandon McCarthy (5-3) dealt with some uncharacteristic control problems in the second, and he ended up allowing five runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"I never felt sharp, and I never felt comfortable mechanically," McCarthy said. "This happens to everyone -- you just have a game where the ball won't go where you want it, and you have to find a way to battle through it."
Nathan earned his 28th save in 34 chances. First baseman Miguel Cabrera made two nice plays to close out the win.
McCarthy entered the game with only seven walks in 52 innings since the Yankees acquired him from Arizona in early July, but after J.D. Martinez singled to start the Detroit second, the New York right-hander walked Nick Castellanos and hit Eugenio Suarez one out later. A walk to Rajai Davis forced in the game's first run.
Martinez's RBI single in the third made it 2-0, although Ellsbury cut the lead in half with his first home run of the night.
Ellsbury hit his 13th homer of the year in the eighth.
The game started after a rain delay of 1 hour, 8 minutes. New York's first eight outs against Porcello all came on groundballs.
BACK IN A GROOVE: Martinez raised his average to .312 with a three-hit night, and with Cabrera somewhat hobbled, the Tigers will take extra offense from anyone.
Martinez struggled immediately after the All-Star break, but he's hitting .338 since Aug. 8.
WARM WELCOME: Derek Jeter received a standing ovation when he came to the plate for the first time Tuesday. Barring a postseason meeting, this series will be the retiring star's last in the state where he went to high school. Jeter had two hits.
Yankees: OF Brett Gardner sat out a third straight game with a right ankle injury, but 1B Mark Teixeira was back in the lineup after sitting out Monday to rest a sore left hamstring. Teixeira went 0 for 4.
Tigers: Cabrera returned after missing Sunday's game with a right ankle issue. He doubled in the third. In the eighth, he went to his knees to field Brian McCann's grounder and start a double play.
Yankees: RHP Shane Greene (3-1) takes the mound against the Tigers on Wednesday night. New York has won each of Greene's last four starts.
Tigers: LHP David Price (12-9) starts against Greene. Price struck out 10 against the Yankees earlier this month in a game the Tigers won 4-3 in 12 innings.