ANAHEIM -- Nothing is easy for the New York Yankees these days, not even when they take a six-run lead into the ninth inning with their ace on the mound and the greatest closer in history sitting in the bullpen. The Yankees offense finally got off the schneid, scoring five runs in the third inning, and they got eight strong innings out of CC Sabathia, but still had to sweat out the last three outs as David Robertson and Mariano Rivera nearly conspired to create what would have been the worst loss of the year.
What it means: That despite the unsatisfactory 4-6 road trip, the Yankees' flight home can be celebratory rather than funereal because they leave the West Coast on a high note after today's 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels, snapping a five-game losing streak. Because of the bullpen, it turned out not to be as easy as it should have been -- the Angels batted around in the ninth to score five runs and raise some beads of sweat on a lot of Yankee foreheads -- but a win is a win and the Yankees desperately needed one.
Who are these people?: And what have they done with the Yankees? Just when it appeared that another epic RISP fail was on the way, the Yankees busted out for five runs in the third inning. It started with a walk to Chris Stewart, followed by a Brett Gardner single. When Ichiro Suzuki looked at a third strike, it appeared to be deja vu all over again, but Travis Hafner belted a 1-2 pitch over the center-field fence for a three-run homer, his 11th of the season and the Yankees' first dinger since Thursday. Lyle Overbay's double knocked in Vernon Wells (single) and Jayson Nix then singled in Overbay to complete the scoring barrage.
Big man, big day: Sabathia's performance may have been secondary to the offense's big inning, but the Yankees' ace gave them exactly what they needed today -- length, efficiency and, unlike the rest of the starting staff this week, he did not give back the lead once he had it. Still working with a fastball that tops out at 91, Sabathia worked into the ninth, allowing five hits, walking three and striking out six to win his seventh game of the season. He was charged with two runs because Robertson, called in with two on and none out in the ninth, allowed an RBI single by Mark Trumbo, and another run scored on an infield groundout.
Forced into service: Mariano Rivera, who had not worked since the final inning of Thursday's 18-inning loss to the Athletics in Oakland, was summoned into the game after Robertson loaded the bases in the ninth. As has been the custom around the league this farewell season, Mo got a standing ovation from the remainder of the Father's Day crowd of 41,204 as he jogged to the mound. But he was not sharp, allowing three inherited runners to score. He got his first hitter, Erick Aybar, to ground out, forcing in a run, but the next batter, Alberto Callaspo, singled in two more to make it 6-4. Then the next two hitters, Brad Hawpe and Peter Bourjos, singled to cut the lead to a run. Mo then walked Mike Trout to load the bases for Albert Pujols, who struck out on three pitches. Whew!
Into the act: Wells had just his third RBI of the month, an eighth-inning sacrifice fly that drove in Cano for the Yankees' sixth run of the game. Wells, 1-for-3 today, has just nine hits in his past 81 at-bats (.111) and has not homered since May 15, a stretch of 103 at-bats.
Right where they want 'em: The Yankees had runners at second and third, none out, and Robby Cano up in the first inning, and also loaded the bases for Wells with one out in the same inning. And guess what? They didn't score. Cano struck out and after Hafner walked, Wells rapped into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. No sweat. For the Angels, that is.
What's next: Return home, lick wounds, rest up for a nine-game homestand beginning with a two-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Yankee Stadium homecoming for embattled manager Don Mattingly. Pitching matchups: Phil Hughes (3-5, 4.89) vs. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-2, 2.85) on Tuesday night; Hiroki Kuroda (6-5, 2.78) vs. TBA on Wednesday.