Phil Niekro failed in his second attempt to win his 300th career game as Nelson Simmons and Bob Melvin each hit a run-scoring single in the sixth inning last night in Detroit and the Tigers beat the New York Yankees, 5-2.

New York, which remained five games out of first place because of the Toronto Blue Jays' 13-1 loss to Boston, lost its sixth straight game. That is the Yankees' longest losing streak this season.

Niekro, 46, was trying to become the 18th 300-game winner in baseball history. He lost to Toronto, 3-2, last Friday in his first try to reach the milestone.

"Everybody's putting a lot of emphasis on the 300," he said. "We're five games behind Toronto. You got to put everything in perspective.

"I wouldn't care if I pitched nine innnings and we won in the 13th. If we wake up tomorrow and we're four games behind."

Niekro (15-11) gave up five earned runs on 11 hits in eight innings. He struck out five and walked four.

"I'm throwing the ball where I want to, but my mistakes are hurting me."

He gave up consecutive solo home runs to Kirk Gibson, his 27th, and Darrell Evans, his 34th, with two outs in the first after New York had taken a 2-0 lead.

Niekro retired eight batters in a row before Evans singled to lead off the sixth and took second on a passed ball.

Evans stopped at third on John Grubb's infield single but Simmons had an RBI single to center. Niekro got the second out but Melvin, a last-minute replacement for Lance Parrish, bounced a single through the middle to make it 4-2.

Larry Herndon's homer in the eighth made it 5-2.

Mahler struck out six and retired the first 15 batters he faced after taking over for Juan Berenguer in the first with the bases loaded and one out.