Yankees closer Mariano Rivera struggles in the ninth inning, but still… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
The Angels honored retiring closer Mariano Rivera on Sunday, handing out collectible certificates commemorating a career that is certain to end in the Hall of Fame.
It seemed an odd tribute, though, given that Rivera plays for the team the Angels were trying to beat. And it felt even stranger when Rivera prevailed, striking out Albert Pujols with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, saving a 6-5 Yankees win and ending the Angels' winning streak at three games.
But if the spotlight was on Rivera at the beginning and end of the game, the Angels' focus in the middle was on their own All-Star pitcher, starter Jered Weaver, who is in one of the worst slumps of his career.
BOX SCORE: New York 6, Angels 5
The Yankees tagged Weaver for five runs and seven hits in six innings, the right-hander's seventh consecutive start of six innings or less dating to last year. Weaver (1-3) also tied a career high with four walks and has given up at least four earned runs in consecutive starts for the first time in two seasons.
"It's really frustrating," Weaver said. "Everything I tried to accomplish just didn't work out."
Actually it was only the third inning that didn't work out, with the Yankees sending eight men to the plate, scoring five times. And Weaver could have gotten out of that unharmed if he had thrown a two-strike slider to Travis Hafner in the dirt where he wanted it.
Instead it stayed up and Hafner — who entered the game hitless in his last 23 at-bats and batting .148 lifetime against Weaver — drove it over the center-field wall for a three-run home run, the first three-run homer Weaver has given up at home since 2007.
New York added two more runs in the inning on Lyle Overbay's double and a single by Jayson Nix.
"A three-run home run kind of put a damper on things," Weaver said. "I'm very disappointed in myself."
And the Angels probably are very concerned about him.
Weaver fractured his left elbow in his second start and spent 50 days on the disabled list. He pitched well in his first two games back, but he has given up nine runs in 11 2/3 innings in his last two, sending his earned-run average soaring to 4.41.
"He's still working into his stuff. He's throwing the ball as we would expect for a guy who's missed some time," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "The only issue today was maybe he left some pitches up that hurt him. And it's not characteristic of Weav to walk four guys."
The Angels nearly got him off the hook in the ninth, though. After being shut out for eight innings by CC Sabathia, who left with a 6-0 lead, the Angels beat up on the Yankees' bullpen, scoring five times before Pujols struck out on a check swing to end the game for Rivera's 631st save.
"We were one hit away from winning it. Off the best closer in the game," said center fielder Peter Bourjos, who had two hits and drove in a run. "I don't think we feel good about it whenever you lose. But it's definitely a positive that we battled back like that."