Mo Scares, But Yankees Win This Time

Rivera gives up another homer, but Cano's counts for more

There were plenty of home runs at Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon, but the last one is going to be the one everybody wants to talk about.

Russell Branyan blasted a three-run homer off Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning, running his string of shaky appearances to three. He blew a save in Boston on Sunday night and gave up a two-run homer to old friend Bobby Abreu in a tie game on Tuesday night, touching off this year's furrowed brows of worry that maybe this is the moment when time catches up to Mo.

They don't have to worry about this sudden bout of humanity costing them anything in the standings. Rivera served up the bomb when the Yankees were already up 6-2, meaning that he was able to salvage a happy ending by getting both of the hitters he faced after Branyan's homer.

Right up until Rivera's invincibility shield was pierced, two other homers vied for the top story of the day. There was Curtis Granderson's 32nd homer -- his fourth of the series with the Angels -- and there was Robinson Cano's grand slam in the seventh.

The game was tied at 2 in the seventh with two on and two out when Mark Teixeira's grounder up the middle proved too much for Macier Izturis to handle. The extra out came back to haunt the Angels when Cano hammered a line drive off the second deck in right field.

Cano had himself quite a series as well. He was a single short of the cycle on Wednesday and had two other hits on Thursday as he and Granderson carried the team for a second straight day.

They'll have some help in that department soon. Alex Rodriguez is starting a rehab assignment on Friday and the Yankees expect to have him back in the lineup sometime next week.

All of that is going to be relegated to side talk however. Rivera's going to be what everyone wants to talk about (and ask about at Joe Girardi's press conference, prompting a show of confidence in Rivera from the manager).

Rivera didn't make the mess in the ninth, he relieved Cory Wade with two on and out, but he didn't clean it up either. That means the worry is going to grow and a few more whispers about whether or not this might be the beginning of the end.

He's had weeks like this and come out clean on the other side too many times to jump to a conclusion after three games. The bar is so high for Rivera that the occasional miss feels bigger than it does when any other closer has a rough patch.

Still, the blips on the radar feel bigger now because of age. We know he can't do it forever and the last three days are a rough preview of what it will be like one day sooner than anyone would like.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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