ANAHEIM -- A little sunshine cleared the way for a desperately needed victory, as Mark Teixeira saw his key fly ball misplayed and the Yankees held on to post a 6-5 victory over the Angels on Sunday.
Batting in the seventh inning with the Yankees down by a run, Teixeira sent a drive to center field that popped out of Peter Bourjos' glove as the center fielder squinted against the sky, allowing Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter to charge home with the tying and go-ahead runs.
The miscue helped the Yankees finally get back into their winning mode, after having lost four consecutive games in three different cities as they play out a taxing September stretch.
"We've been through a lot lately," Teixeira said. "For us to scratch this one out, we could kind of smell it. It was one of those things where once we got that lead, we weren't going to give it back."
New York's victory, coupled with the Red Sox's 9-1 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field, increased the Yankees' lead in the American League East to 3 1/2 games with 17 contests remaining on the schedule.
"We've had some tough losses here," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "These guys are a tough team to beat, we know that. We had a chance to win [all] three games. To get this one today was important."
In a more reserved Angels clubhouse, Bourjos hung the loss on his own shoulders.
"I got a good break on it, and it kind of flashed in the sun, but it's a play you have to make," Bourjos said. "We lost the game right there. I need to be in a better position when it came out of the sun."
Gladly accepting the late-inning lead, Mariano Rivera closed the door in the ninth by recording his 40th save of the season and career save No. 599, following scoreless innings by Cory Wade and David Robertson.
Rivera's next save will propel him to the 600-save milestone, one previously reached only by Trevor Hoffman, who finished his career with 601.
"It's a great number, but you're asking the wrong guy for that," Rivera said. "I'm a team player. If it's going to come, it's going to come."
The Yankees felt the same way about their offense, having been held to one run in their previous 25 innings coming into Sunday's action, and were rewarded for their faith.
"We need to win some games because we haven't accomplished a thing," Jeter said.
There were signs of life up and down the lineup against Ervin Santana, with New York producing six runs and eight hits over his six-plus innings.
Eric Chavez notched an RBI single in the second inning and Robinson Cano cracked his 25th homer, a solo blast off Santana in the fourth inning.
Curtis Granderson put the Yankees back in the game with a two-run shot in the fifth, his 39th. Santana walked four, striking out eight.
"It was good, because we kept coming back on them," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought that was important. There were some big hits today from some guys."
Working with a neophyte catcher in rookie Jesus Montero, Yankees starter Freddy Garcia didn't help the rookie's transition much, lacking his sharp command.
But Garcia and Montero figured out a way to keep the Yankees in the game, limiting the Angels to five runs in five innings.
"It was fine -- we talked before the game," Montero said. "He told me to be ready [to] block, and that's what I did. We did a nice job together today."
Howard Kendrick slugged a two-run homer off Garcia in the first inning, his 16th, and Bobby Wilson scored on a third-inning wild pitch before Bourjos belted a two-run homer, his 11th, in the fourth inning.
"Those guys know how to play the game. They take pitches, they work," Garcia said.
Garcia executed a clutch sequence when he needed to in the fifth, loading the bases but then getting Mark Trumbo to pop out and retiring Alberto Callaspo on a groundout to escape.
"That was huge," Teixeira said. "That's a scrappy lineup, so you've got to think when they have runners on, they're going to be able to push them across somehow. For Freddy to get out of that inning was big for us."
The soft-tossing right-hander scattered seven hits, walking three and striking out three while throwing 109 pitches.
"I was really glad Joe gave me the confidence to finish that [fifth] inning," Garcia said. "It was really important for any pitcher in that situation. To get out of that inning, I think that's big."
The extent of the Yankees' bruising was on display in the seventh inning, as New York called upon its fifth catcher of the week. Austin Romine made his Major League debut as a defensive replacement for Montero.
Romine earned compliments from Rivera for his work in the ninth inning, high praise indeed.
It was another bright spot for a Yankees team that has been trying to weather a seemingly endless spate of delayed games and makeup contests. Teixeira expressed hope that the worst of the storm has finally passed.
"We've lost a lot of tough games," Teixeira said. "We're beat up, we're tired, but very proud of our guys the way we're fighting, the way we're battling."