Owners of the top record in the league, the Angels have clearly enjoyed their East Coast excursion, and the Yankees finally got their first up-close look at a team that could play a large role in how their postseason hopes play out.
"You don't have the record they do by not playing good baseball on a consistent basis," manager Joe Girardi said. "They're 19-6 in the month of July and haven't had a losing record in any month. That's a very good team, and we know we have to play at a very high level to beat them."
It didn't quite work out that way, at least not for the first game of the series. Starting the first of 10 games remaining between these two clubs until the end of the season, Pettitte (12-8) made it through two innings without allowing a run to score, stranding a pair of Angels on the bases in both frames.
But the left-hander's luck ran out as the Angels (68-40) batted around in the third, showing off some of the same offensive pop that enabled them to sweep the Red Sox earlier in the week at Fenway Park.
Hunter connected for a long three-run homer to put the Angels out to an early lead and, three batters later, Rivera followed suit to stake his club to a 6-0 advantage and leave Pettitte mopping his brow at the back of the mound.
"I was terrible tonight," Pettitte said. "I've got one responsibility, and that's to try and give this team a chance to win. Obviously, I didn't do it tonight, and it's very frustrating. That's a good team coming in here, and to throw the ball the way I did and have my guys standing out there, falling behind against everybody, it's pretty embarrassing."
Chone Figgins stroked an RBI single to bring in the Angels' seventh run, opening the scoring in the sixth. Called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier in the afternoon, right-hander Chris Britton relieved Pettitte and served up the three-run homer to Guerrero, which landed on the screen above Monument Park.
Two of the runs were charged to Pettitte, who completed his evening charged with nine runs on a season-high 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out two, losing for just the third time in his last 14 starts.
"I didn't feel comfortable from the get-go," he said. "I was able to get through the first two innings without giving up a run, but I couldn't keep anyone off base -- the top of the lineup, bottom of the lineup. I didn't do anything right tonight. I was missing with everything."
The game marked the first time the Angels hit three three-run homers in a single game since June 8, 1978, at Oakland, when Don Baylor, Brian Downing and Ron Jackson connected. Baylor could be asked about the feat during Saturday's Old-Timers' Day festivities, but the Yankees have bigger concerns than historic minutiae -- such as playing better against the Angels.
"They're a really good team," said Johnny Damon. "They don't make too many mistakes. They've got guys at the top of their lineup that can just drive you crazy. Then you've got some boppers. Three three-run home runs, you don't see that too often."
Britton was asked to take it on the chin and help save New York's bullpen, giving up three runs in a 3 2/3-inning relief stint. The Yankees' defense appeared a step slow at times, especially on Erick Aybar's eighth-inning triple, which fell between Bobby Abreu and Melky Cabrera in an exhibition of miscommunication that Girardi said the Yankees would address.
"We didn't play a good game tonight, all around," Girardi said.
Provided with more than enough support, Angels right-hander Jon Garland (10-6) turned in a solid start, limiting New York to three runs over six-plus innings en route to becoming the Angels' third 10-game winner of the season.
Abreu and Xavier Nady homered to pace the Yankees' (59-49) offense. Ivan Rodriguez went 1-for-3 but allowed three stolen bases in his debut after arriving at Yankee Stadium in the early afternoon to take a look around on his first day wearing pinstripes.
"It was a long game, and I'm a little tired right now," Rodriguez said. "It was a long night last night. I've just got to go and rest and be ready for tomorrow. I'll be ready."
After spending time with the Yankees' coaches to get a better handle on the pitching staff, a process that will take a few more days, Rodriguez got a small taste of New York controversy.
Attempting to score on a seventh-inning comebacker that was dropped by pitcher Darren Oliver and then thrown to second base for a forceout, the 14-time All-Star was called out by home-plate umpire Ed Hickox, but television replays showed that Rodriguez clearly slapped his hand on the plate while sliding around catcher Jeff Mathis.
In the end, the play was but a footnote, as were the three runs New York added in the ninth inning off Darren O'Day and Jose Arredondo to close the gap to six runs. By then, the Yankees would consider the Angels' wakeup message delivered.
"They play hard and put pressure on you the entire game," Derek Jeter said. "They don't strike out a lot, and they put the ball in play. They run a lot and they're aggressive, and they take the extra base. When you play them, you've got to be ready."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.