Vernon Wells had an RBI single in the first for New York and Chris Stewart drove in another run on a sacrifice fly.
Tulowitzki was back in the lineup after missing the previous two days with soreness in his legs. He wasn't in his customary cleanup spot but hit No. 3 in the order as manager Walt Weiss elected to flip-flop the All-Star shortstop and Carlos Gonzalez against the left-handed Sabathia.
Tulowitzki was 1 for 3 with a walk, while Gonzalez wound up 0 for 3 and struck out twice. Gonzalez drove in the Rockies' lone run with a sacrifice fly in the first.
"Our pitching was outstanding. Offense was definitely subpar," Weiss said. "Not acceptable."
New York took the lead for good in the fourth when Stewart's sac fly brought home Chris Nelson, the former Rockies infielder who led off the inning with a double. Cano added his team-high ninth homer an inning later.
Colorado tied it in the second when Dexter Fowler beat the throw home on Gonzalez's sacrifice fly to left. Fowler eluded Stewart's tag just long enough to reach his hand around the catcher's shin guards and touch home plate.
Stewart was a little upset over the call, thinking he applied the tag in time. Yankees manager Joe Girardi came out of the dugout to briefly argue with plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.
Cuzzi also was involved in a close play at first base in the ninth inning Wednesday, when he ruled Brennan Boesch safe on an infield single that brought in the go-ahead run during the Yankees' 3-2 win.
New York jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the series finale when Wells laced an RBI single to right. Wells also had a productive game the night before when he hit a two-run homer, scored the go-ahead run in the ninth and then filled in at third base for the first time in his big league career.
Rest assured, Wells isn't planning a position change after playing flawless third base. But if the occasion should arise again, he would gladly take over at the hot corner.
"I take ground balls everywhere, so I'm ready for anything," Wells said.
NOTES: New York SS Eduardo Nunez (left ribcage tightness) said he hopes to play on Friday. ... Yankees OF Curtis Granderson (broken right wrist) was to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... Sabathia threw 51 pitches, breaking a string of 13 straight starts in which he reached the 100-pitch mark. ... Weiss was asked if he thought Rivera's strike zone seemed to expand in the ninth Wednesday. "I'm not allowed to comment on those things, am I?" he said. "I'm a little green in this position, but I'm smart enough to know that one."