ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Mariano Rivera made his 1,036th appearance with a catcher making his major league debut. Rivera earned his 599th career save with help from Austin Romine, who was shopping in a store in Kentucky 24 hours earlier.
Although injuries and slumps have forced the New York Yankees to get resourceful — and a little lucky — in the last few weeks, they’re still leaving California with their biggest AL East lead of the season.
Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson homered, New York scored two key runs when Peter Bourjos dropped a fly ball in the seventh inning, and the Yankees beat the Los Angeles Angels 6-5 Sunday to snap a four-game skid.
“We got a little bit lucky today,” said Rivera, who moved two saves behind Trevor Hoffman’s major league career record. “That’s part of the game, but we won.”
Derek Jeter had two hits and scored the go-ahead run for the Yankees, who moved 3½ games ahead of slumping Boston in the division standings.
The Yankees’ four-game skid was their second-longest this season, but they still haven’t lost four straight road games all year. New York also avoided getting swept by the Angels for the first time since July 2009.
The Yankees might be stumbling a bit — but compared to the Red Sox, who were pounded again by Tampa Bay on Sunday, they’re rolling.
“We’ve lost a lot of tough games,” said Mark Teixeira, who hit the decisive fly to Bourjos. “We’re beat up, very tired, but … we needed a break like that. We’ve been through a lot lately, and for us to scratch this one out, we could smell it. Once we got that lead, we weren’t going to give it back.”
New York had two runners on in the seventh when Bourjos — normally an outstanding fielder — was blinded by the sun just long enough for Teixeira’s fly to deep center to simply pop out of his glove. Bourjos then missed the cutoff man with his throw, allowing Jeter to score easily from first base on the error.
“It kind of flashed into the sun for a second, but it’s a play I’ve got to make,” Bourjos said. “I think I needed to get in a little better position to catch it. It was a turning point in that game, and we lost it right there.”
Howie Kendrick and Bourjos hit two-run homers for the Angels, who dropped 2½ games behind AL West-leading Texas.
Both teams participated in a pregame ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Former Yankees manager Joe Torre was on the field while Jeter, Jorge Posada and Rivera caught ceremonial first pitches from two first responders and a survivor in the attacks on New York and Washington.
“I wish we were at home with the people of New York,” Posada said.
Rivera earned his 40th save of the season. The Yankees play six more road games before returning to New York on Sept. 19.
Romine made an unlikely debut one day after getting a call from manager Joe Girardi, a week after his minor league season concluded.
Romine, who grew up 10 minutes from Angel Stadium in Lake Forest, came on in the seventh inning for fellow catching prospect Jesus Montero. Romine played in front of more than 20 family members — including Angels infielder Andrew Romine, his older brother.
“It’s a tremendous honor to catch (Rivera),” said Romine, the fifth catcher used by New York in four days. “I’ve played in this ballpark before, so there’s a comfort level.”
Cory Wade (5-0) pitched the sixth inning for New York after Freddy Garcia scuffled through the first five, allowing five runs and seven hits.
Injuries are piling up during a 10-game trip for the Yankees, who played their second straight game without Alex Rodriguez and their third in a row without right fielder Nick Swisher. Rodriguez won’t return until at least Tuesday while resting a sore left thumb, while Swisher has tendinitis in his left elbow.
Catchers Francisco Cervelli and Russell Martin both sat out to rest injuries incurred earlier this week, and Posada said he was a bit sore after catching Saturday for the first time all season.
Ervin Santana (11-11) couldn’t match the shutdown efforts of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren earlier in the series despite eight strikeouts for the Angels, yielding eight hits and four walks before leaving with two runners on in the sixth.
Erick Aybar had four hits for the Angels, who completed a 6-3 homestand. Los Angeles had pulled within 1½ games of Texas on Saturday, but the Rangers routed Oakland 8-1 earlier Sunday.
“We shot ourselves in the foot all day on the offensive side,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We had chances to score runners with just some outs, and we left a lot of guys on third base with less than two outs. You need to pick up those runs and keep pressure on them. We just didn’t play the kind of all-around type of game that’s going to lead to a win.”
NOTES: Granderson’s two-run homer in the fifth was the 39th of his remarkable season. … Angels DH Bobby Abreu stole two bases, giving him 20 steals for the 13th consecutive season. That’s the longest streak in the majors since Rickey Henderson had 23 straight seasons of 20 steals from 1979-2001. … Aybar got the Angels’ major league-leading 39th bunt hit in the third inning with a perfect bunt down the third-base line. Aybar and Bourjos account for the majority of Los Angeles’ bunt hits.
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.)