Just to ensure there were no repeats of the lost lead, Xavier Nady connected for a two-run homer, his sixth blast since joining the Yankees in July. Provided the three-run cushion, Edwar Ramirez hurled the home half to record his first save of the year, preserving the win for Jose Veras after two perfect innings.
It was an example of the bullpen picking up Rivera for a change. The elder statesman of the relief corps has spent most of the year tutoring the younger arms -- Ramirez and Veras being especially prominent in that group.
"The bullpen just thinks about doing the job," Veras said. "We're one group. We work and we have a job to do -- win the games, keep the games close. Mariano helps everyone in the bullpen, so we just try to do the best for him."
Rivera was charged with his first blown save in 29 opportunities this season, surrendering a game-tying three-run homer to Delmon Young in the bottom of the eighth inning. Rivera came on after Damaso Marte struggled in relief of starter Mike Mussina, who had limited the Twins to three runs over seven innings.
Marte allowed a leadoff double to Mike Redmond and a one-out single to pinch-hitter Randy Ruiz before Rivera was summoned to try for a five-out save. Young erased those chances by belting a high arcing drive inside the right-field foul pole, drawing a raucous standing ovation from the Metrodome crowd.
"I made a mistake," Rivera said. "The ball caught too much of the plate. I couldn't make my pitch where it was supposed to go, and that was the result."
The late scoring change made for a second consecutive shaky appearance for Rivera, who also allowed Chone Figgins' ninth-inning walk-off single on Sunday in Anaheim in his first and only pitch of the game. This time, it cost Mussina a chance at what could have been his 16th victory of a resurgent campaign, having scattered eight hits in a 104-pitch performance.
"We haven't played very well for a while, and it's been a tough trip," Mussina said. "Finding a way to win a game is a big deal. It certainly wasn't pretty and it wasn't smooth and it wasn't easy, but we found a way to win a game."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that it was unfortunate that Mussina was denied the victory in what will go down as a very good no-decision, but Mussina said that he could not allow himself to be disappointed in the result.
"They've held the lead for me all year in every game," Mussina said. "I just go out and do what I'm supposed to do. Sometimes it doesn't work out the way you hope, but we won the game in the end and that's ultimately the most important thing."
One night after being shut out, the Yankees responded facing Twins starter Nick Blackburn. Held out of the lineup on Monday, Johnny Damon jumped back in with a bang, connecting off Blackburn for his 24th career leadoff home run.
Derek Jeter broke a 3-3 tie with a run-scoring single, and Nady tacked on a two-run double against Blackburn, who worked 4 2/3 innings, scattering six hits and four runs while walking three and striking out five.
Mussina's blemishes came with two runs in the second inning and one more in the fourth. Brian Buscher and Adam Everett brought Minnesota's first two runs home with consecutive sacrifice flies to center, and the Twins briefly knotted the game on Everett's RBI single up the middle.
Boof Bonser allowed Bobby Abreu's broken-bat fielder's choice in the seventh to score New York's fifth run, and Jesse Crain was touched for a run in the eighth on a Wilson Betemit single.
The victory snapped a season-high four-game skid for the Yankees, who moved within eight games of the first-place Rays in the American League East and remained five games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card pursuit.
"It's a big win, the way we won," Girardi said. "To be able to fight back, this has been a tough road trip. We've got a chance to win a game tomorrow and win a series. We'll come back and try to do it."