Rivera blew a save for the third outing in a row, for the first time in his storied career. But then Gardner hit a walk-off home run, giving the New York Yankees a wild 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers in the Bronx.
What it means: The Yanks took two of three this weekend against the team with the best record in the American League. It's also their first series victory since the first week of July. They avoid falling to .500, upping their record to 59-57. But they remain in fourth place in the American League East, 10½ games behind the first-place Red Sox, and are 6½ games out in the wild-card race.
The Tigers drop to 69-47, but remain in first place in the American League Central, 7½ games ahead of Cleveland.
Hard to believe: Rivera came on in the ninth with the Yankees leading 4-2. Miguel Cabrera led off for Detroit and promptly smacked a ball into the right-field seats, making it 4-3. Cabrera also homered off Rivera on Friday, a two-run shot that tied that score at 4.
The hero: With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Gardner hit a 94 mph fastball from Jose Veras into the right-field stands to win the ballgame -- his eighth home run of the season, and the first walk-off homer of his major league career.
The lightning rod: In his first at-bat, leading off the bottom of the second inning, Rodriguez swung at a 1-0 92 mph fastball from Tigers starter Justin Verlander and hit a towering fly ball that landed in the left-field seats, tying the score at 1. It was career home run No. 648. It also was career RBI No. 1,951, pushing Rodriguez past Stan Musial into fifth place on the all-time list.
A-Rod heard a mixture of cheers and boos when he was introduced before the game and before his first at-bat. After the homer, however, it was almost all cheers -- except for when he booted a slow grounder off the bat of Martinez in the top of the third, his first error of the season.
In the bottom of the third, Rodriguez hit a line-drive single down the right-field line, driving home Robinson Cano to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead. In the fifth, with Cano on first base and two outs, Rodriguez popped out to first. In the seventh, with no one on and two outs, Rodriguez grounded out to third. He finished the day 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run scored.
Another milestone:Alfonso Soriano collected his 2,000th career hit, and did so by driving a ball into the left-field seats to lead off the bottom of the fourth, giving the Yankees a 4-1 lead. It was his 20th homer of the season, and third since joining the Yanks on July 26.
Shaky Andy:Andy Pettitte gave up a run in the first inning for the eighth consecutive start, but it could have been much worse. The Tigers had the bases loaded with one out, but Pettitte got Matt Tuiasosopo to ground to third base, and Rodriguez turned the 5-5-3 double play to keep the score at 1-0.
Pettitte struggled just to get into the fifth inning, with runners on base in each frame. Joe Girardi finally gave him the hook with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the fifth, with Pettitte already having thrown 101 pitches. Shawn Kelley came to the rescue, getting a strikeout and fly out to end the frame and keep the score 4-1.
Pettitte gave up one run on eight hits, with three walks and three strikeouts. He remains 7-9 on the season and hasn't won a game since July 11.
What's next: A four-game series between the Yankees and Angels, beginning Monday at 7:05 p.m. Hiroki Kuroda (10-7, 2-45) will start for New York, opposed by fellow righty Garrett Richards (3-4, 4.20).