NEW YORK - Torii Hunter's eyes went big when he saw Mariano Rivera's cutter floating over the middle of the plate. He put the barrel of the bat on it, sent it hurtling into center, and pumped his fist on the way to first.
His grandmother would have been proud.
Hunter's RBI single in the ninth inning off Rivera gave the Los Angeles Angels their fifth straight win, 1-0 over the New York Yankees last night.
It was a fitting ending to a tough week for Hunter, who will travel to Pine Bluff, Ark., this morning to attend the burial of Edna Cobbs, his grandmother.
Cobbs, who helped raise Hunter, passed away last Friday.
"She was a big baseball fan," Hunter said, a wistful smile pouring over his face. "A lot of what I did today were lessons I learned from her."
With one the best closers of all time on the mound against him, she would have told him: "Be patient, Baby. He's gonna throw one," Hunter said.
"He played with a lot of emotion this week, it's been a very, very rough week for him," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's kept his focus and played baseball and I think it's been a good release for him."
The Angels are 12-2 since the All-Star break. Los Angeles is 7-1 on its current road trip through Baltimore, Boston, and New York.
The Yankees lost for the fifth time in six games and fell 5 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay in the AL East.
Hunter's hit made a winner of Ervin Santana, who pitched eight stellar innings. Santana (12-5) struck out eight.
"He has three 'plus' pitches and he had good command of them all," Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon said. "He pounded the strike zone and made us chase. He's definitely one of the better pitchers we've faced all year."
Francisco Rodriguez pitched a perfect ninth for his major league-leading 45th save in 48 chances.
"It's incredible how he's gotten so many opportunities," Scioscia said. "Hopefully, we'll get the offense going to have the chance to give the guys at the back end of the bullpen some days off."
Rivera again struggled in a non-save situation, giving up a run for the third straight time no save was involved, and fourth in the last six. Rivera is 26 of 26 in save chances.
Yankee starter Sidney Ponson allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings, his best start since joining the team in June. He held the Angels hitless through four innings, but Garret Anderson singled to lead off the fifth.