Rivera grazed Jeff Francoeur with a bases-loaded pitch that forced in the winning run Saturday as the Rangers pulled out a stunning 7-6 victory over the Yankees, getting to the legendary closer in their final turn at bat.
"It's one of those games that bothers you," Rivera said. "It doesn't go the way you want. The first guy sets the tone, and I walked that guy."
Back in action after manager Joe Girardi used him for two scoreless innings in Friday's 13-inning affair at Rangers Ballpark, Rivera coughed up his third blown save of the season -- and his first on the road -- in a bumpy effort that saw him record just one out.
"He's human," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He threw two innings last night and maybe he wasn't as sharp, but that doesn't take away what we did. We battled, we pulled it off and we won the game."
Rivera lost famously free-swinging Vladimir Guerrero to a five-pitch walk and then moved to a slide-step in hopes of keeping pinch-runner Esteban German close at first base.
Nelson Cruz followed with a full-count single to move the tying run to third base, and Ian Kinsler slapped a run-scoring double past the third-base bag, putting the winning run 90 feet away.
"[Kinsler] didn't hit it hard, he just placed it," Rivera said. "You want a ground ball. That's what we were looking for. The ball was just right over the base and you can't do anything about that."
After an intentional walk and a popout, Rivera brushed Francoeur with a 91-mph offering that allowed the Rangers to wildly celebrate their second victory of the three-game series, with Cliff Lee heading to the mound for Sunday afternoon's finale.
"He's the best closer of all-time," Texas third baseman Michael Young said. "It's not easy. We had good at-bats. It's never easy. We had the bases loaded with nobody out and you still have to have good at-bats against them. I don't know if Frenchy qualifies as a good at-bat, but we'll take it."
Texas' rally came after Alex Rodriguez had connected for a three-run double off Matt Harrison in the top of the eighth, lacing a drive down the left-field line that rattled around in the corner and seemed to reverse the Bombers' fortunes in the series.
"A huge hit for us. It put us in the lead," Girardi said. "We've been doing a good job of putting runners on; we've struggled with getting them in. We've hit balls well, hit balls to the base of the wall. Our at-bats have been good, we just haven't been getting them in."
New York has stranded 32 runners in the first two games of the series, but it closed within one run in the seventh, as Pedro Strop inherited a bases-loaded, one-out situation and immediately uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Mark Teixeira to score.
Provided the lead on A-Rod's hit, Girardi said that he had no reservations about going to Rivera, despite the fact that the 40-year-old had to get up and down to work two frames in New York's loss on Friday.
"He only threw 23 pitches [Friday]," Girardi said. "It wasn't like he threw 35 or 40 pitches. If he had thrown that many, there's no way I would have used him tonight. He was just a little off. The leadoff walk hurt him."
A.J. Burnett and Tommy Hunter locked in a starting matchup that saw both hurlers washed out of the game before the bottom of the fifth inning, when heavy thunderstorms halted play for 59 minutes.
Chad Gaudin came on when the tarpaulin was removed, finishing Burnett after four innings of two-run, four-hit ball, which the mercurial right-hander saw as another step in the right direction.
"I think so. It was cut short, but I can live with two [runs]," Burnett said. "I have to concentrate and do a little better with two outs, not try to be too perfect and attack guys, but I definitely feel better."
Walks dented Burnett's outing in the first and third innings. Burnett lost Elvis Andrus to a leadoff free pass and allowed a two-out single to Guerrero. In the third, Burnett issued a two-out walk to David Murphy, who scored on a Guerrero double.
After surrendering a game-winning homer to Cruz in Friday's 13-inning game, Gaudin allowed sixth-inning singles to Cruz and Kinsler before lefty Boone Logan was summoned.
Francoeur gave the Rangers the lead by lifting a pinch-hit sacrifice fly off David Robertson, and Andrus followed with a lined single to left, driving in the Rangers' fourth run.
"They can hit," Burnett said. "When you play against a team that can hit, your margin for error is low. You try to stay to your strengths as best you can. We pitched pretty good tonight -- a couple of mistakes, but you battle through it."
The Yankees got to Hunter for two runs in the second inning. Robinson Cano stroked a one-out double to right field and came home on Lance Berkman's single.
Francisco Cervelli -- who has reached base 10 times in the series -- later drove home Berkman with an RBI hit, just the prelude to another lengthy back-and-forth fight between the potential American League Division Series foes.
"It seems like the last four we've played have been exactly like this one. They've been seesaw battles," Girardi said. "It's just two good clubs playing against each other and continuing to put good at-bats on pitchers and score runs."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.