NEW YORK (AP) — Mariano Rivera stood on the mound, staring at where the ball landed in the seats in right field.
Not a scene the great closer or anyone else at Yankee Stadium had seen very often.
Bobby Abreu hit his second homer of the game, a two-out, two-run shot off Rivera in the ninth inning, and the New York Yankees ran themselves out of their final chance to rally Tuesday night in a 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
Rivera faltered for the second straight appearance — he blew a ninth-inning lead Sunday night in Boston, the Yankees lost in the 10th and fell behind the Red Sox atop the AL East.
“That’s going to happen. Unfortunately, it happened tonight,” Rivera said. “It was a great game and we had a chance to hold it there, and I did not do it.”
Rivera said there were no similarities in the two shaky performances. Instead, it came down to one pitch — his signature pitch.
“Yeah, it was a cutter that didn’t dive down. He was able to put pretty good wood on the ball,” Rivera said.
Abreu’s drive was only the second homer allowed this season by Rivera (1-2). It was the first home run off Rivera at Yankee Stadium since Minnesota’s Jason Kubel hit a grand slam on May 16, 2010.
Rivera had given up just one earned run at home this year. The Angels, though, have caused him more problems than other clubs in the past. His career 3.60 ERA against the Angels is his highest against any opponent.
“I asked about the pitch that Bobby hit, and he said it just didn’t cut, for whatever reason,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
How often does a Rivera cutter not cut?
“Very, very seldom. You don’t see it very often, and he happened to throw one tonight,” Girardi said.
Abreu connected for his first multihomer game this season and 16th of his career. Once a star for the Yankees, Abreu sat in a golf cart outside the Angels’ clubhouse and chatted with some of his former teammates before the game while rain washed away batting practice.
“It’s unbelievable,” Abreu said. “You never expect as a hitter you’re going to hit a homer against Mariano.”
The Angels, the only American League team with a winning record against the Yankees over the last decade, saddled New York with its first three-game losing streak since early June.
The Yankees tried to come back in the bottom of the ninth, putting runners at the corners with Mark Teixeira up and two outs.
Rookie reliever Jordan Walden bluffed the fake-to-third, throw-to-first pickoff play a couple times. The only thing that did was draw boos from the crowd.
Walden decided to try it once more. He stepped to third as if to make a throw, whirled toward first and — surprise! — Curtis Granderson was trying to steal second and was caught in no-man’s-land.
For Walden, it was easy pickin’s.
“He’s halfway and I’m like, ‘What?'” Walden said. “You practice it in spring training. That’s why.”
Walden threw to shortstop Erick Aybar, who chased Granderson. Aybar tossed to first baseman Mark Trumbo, who made the tag to end the game.
“I was trying to get to second base. The odds are you never really see too many teams do that too many times in an inning,” Granderson said. “So the odds are he’s probably not going to do it again. There’s two strikes and I don’t have too many options to get to second base.”
Pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo opened the Angels ninth with a single. Aybar bunted into a forceout, leaving him in an 0-for-24 slump, and stole second base. After Howie Kendrick grounded out, Abreu hit his sixth home run of the season.
Walden worked the ninth for his 26th save in 33 chances. Scott Downs (6-2) got Russell Martin to ground out with two runners on to end the eighth.
Derek Jeter lined a two-out, two-run single over Fernando Rodney’s head that made it 4-all in the seventh, and smiled wide as the Angels made a pitching change. That tying hit came right after Brett Gardner finished starter Dan Haren with an RBI single and stole his 22nd straight base.
The Angels scored four times off A.J. Burnett in the sixth for a 4-1 lead. Abreu led off with a home run, Jeff Mathis had a two-run double and Burnett threw a wild pitch that let another run score.
Granderson hit his 29th homer, giving New York a 1-0 lead in the first.
NOTES: Angels RHP Garrett Richards is set to make his major league debut Wednesday night against the Yankees. Richards was 12-2 with 3.06 ERA at Double-A Arkansas. Rookie Ivan Nova (10-4) will start for New York. He struck out a career-high 10 in his last start vs. the White Sox. … DH Jorge Posada was still on the bench for the Yankees. “I’m not happy,” he said. “I really can’t control not being in the lineup.” … Yankees RHP Phil Hughes will pitch Saturday vs. Tampa Bay. He was supposed to start this game, but got moved back after pitching in relief Sunday.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.