ANAHEIM, Calif. - Bases loaded with two outs. Bottom of the ninth inning in a one-run game. The greatest closer in baseball history facing one of the best hitters of his generation.
An average Sunday afternoon game swiftly turned into a memorable moment, and Mariano Rivera made it even better for the Yankees when he struck out Albert Pujols to close out New York's skid-snapping win.
Rivera fanned Pujols on three pitches to end the Angels' five-run rally in the ninth, and the Yankees stopped their five-game losing streak with a wild 6-5 victory over Los Angeles.
"The moment doesn't really get to him," Travis Hafner said of Rivera, baseball's career saves leader. "As long as he's got the lead, you feel he's going to find a way to get the win."
Rivera would have enjoyed his 632nd save a bit more if he hadn't caused much of the drama himself in the park where he made his major league debut in 1995 and earned his first save a year later.
CC Sabathia pitched five-hit ball into the ninth and Hafner hit a three-run homer off Jered Weaver, but the Yankees barely got enough from Rivera. New York's famed closer gave up three hits and a walk, but still got his 24th save in dramatic fashion.
Jayson Nix also drove in a run during a five-run third inning for the Yankees, who salvaged the finale of their 10-game road trip by battering Weaver (1-3) early and hanging on by their fingernails late.
Sabathia (7-5) struck out six and walked three, but tired in the ninth, leaving with two runners on. After reliever David Robertson left with a 6-1 lead, Rivera gave up Erick Aybar's RBI groundout, Alberto Callaspo's two-run single and Peter Bourjos' RBI single.
Rivera then walked Mike Trout to load the bases before getting Pujols.
"That was a great rally and a lot of fun to be a part of," said Mark Trumbo, who drove in the Angels' first run in the ninth. "You know the odds are heavily stacked against you, especially with a guy like CC out there. That's exactly what we wanted to see. It was very, very close, and that's about all you can hope for against a guy like Mariano Rivera. Maybe one more blooped (hit) and we win this ballgame."