Yanks hold off Twins in 12 to end skid despite Rivera's 1st blown save of year

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Desperate for a win, manager Joe Girardi went to one of the few players who has shown any kind of consistency for the New York Yankees this season.

Then, Mariano Rivera blew a save for the first time all year.

But just when it looked as though nothing could go right for these stunned and scuffling Yankees, something finally did.

Alex Rodriguez hit a go-ahead homer in the 12th inning and the Yankees overcame Delmon Young's tying shot off Rivera in the eighth, beating the Minnesota Twins 9-6 Tuesday night.

"We haven't seen Mo do that all year," Girardi said. "It's strange when it happens, but obviously you have to find a way to win the game."

Xavier Nady added a two-run shot later in the 12th, also off Matt Guerrier (6-6), to help New York end a four-game skid -- its longest this season. Johnny Damon hit a leadoff homer and finished with three hits. He also scored twice.

Rodriguez was 0-for-5 when he stepped to the plate with one out and nobody on in the 12th, having slammed his helmet down in disgust after grounding out to end the ninth.

His drive easily cleared the center-field fence, and A-Rod flipped his bat before commencing a slow trot around the bases. He called it his biggest hit of the year.

"Without a question," Rodriguez said. "We had to stop the bleeding."

This one was anything but easy, though.

Behind another solid outing from Mike Mussina, New York led 6-3 when Rivera came to the mound with two on and one out in the eighth. Game over, right? Not so fast.

Perhaps the greatest closer in baseball history, Rivera was off to a career-best 28-for-28 start to the season on save chances. But he left a cutter out over the plate and Young made him pay with the first homer by a Twins batter off Rivera.

"I was thinking, hopefully it goes foul," Rivera said. "It didn't go foul. So we have to battle and preserve the tie game."

Battle he did. Rivera pitched 1 2/3 innings, Jose Veras (3-1) worked two innings for the win and Edwar Ramirez earned his first save.

"Frustrating to play 4½ hours and lose," said Twins catcher Mike Redmond, who filled in for All-Star Joe Mauer after he came to the park with a stiff neck.

Young had three hits and scored three runs for the Twins, who couldn't overcome their fourth deficit of the night in the 12th inning against Ramirez.

Justin Morneau finished 0-for-4 with an intentional walk and Twins hitters went 0-for-9 in the 10th, 11th and 12th. Minnesota fell out of first place in the AL Central again, a half-game behind Chicago.

"Delmon hitting the big three-run homer, that was pretty doggone exciting," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's just unfortunate that we couldn't come up with another run after that."

A loss Tuesday could have been a major blow to the Yankees, who haven't missed the postseason since 1993. They moved within eight games of first-place Tampa Bay in the AL East and remained five behind Boston in the wild-card standings by winning for only the sixth time in 17 games.

"We hit into five double plays, Mo gives up three runs," Rodriguez said. "You see things you've never seen before when you're going through struggles like we are right now. And you really come to expect the unexpected. You just have to battle back."

Game notes
Yankees SS Derek Jeter left the game in the ninth with a bruised instep. Girardi said he expects Jeter to play Wednesday. ... Yankees RHP Phil Hughes made a rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He allowed two runs and three hits with four strikeouts and a walk in 5 1/3 innings against Pawtucket. ... RHP Carl Pavano's rehab start for Double-A Trenton on Tuesday didn't go as well. He gave up seven hits, including two homers, and five runs in 4 1/3 innings. He also hit two batters with pitches. ... Yankees DH-LF Hideki Matsui will run the bases for the second time Wednesday. That puts him on course to start a rehab assignment as soon as Friday. ... Twins 2B Nick Punto snapped an 0-for-13 skid with a double in the fifth.