ARLINGTON, Texas -- With a seven-run lead and a chance to give Mike Mussina a break, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre didn't think twice about going to his bullpen.
Then the relievers, including Mariano Rivera, almost gave the game away Friday night.
"Luckily, we had a big lead," Torre said after New York held on for an 8-7 victory at Texas, ending the Rangers' six-game winning streak.
Mussina was pulled after allowing only his third hit, a single by Kevin Mench to start the eighth on the right-hander's 86th pitch. Mench's RBI single off the fourth pitcher in the inning finally capped the six-run outburst.
"At the time, I didn't think about it either way," Mussina said about being pulled. "I'm going to throw a lot of pitches over the course of the year. Could I have thrown 10 or 12 or 15 more? Yeah, probably.
"If the guys behind me would have come in and been smooth, nobody would have thought anything of it."
It was anything but.
Aaron Small allowed three singles and three runs, facing only four batters. Kyle Farnsworth struck out Mark Teixeira with the bases loaded, then walked Phil Nevin before Rivera took over and allowed Hank Blalock's two-run single.
"When they started scoring those runs, it was like a snowball," said Alex Rodriguez, who drove in three runs against his former team. "That reminds you of two things: how much their guys can hit and how well Mussina pitched."
After Mench's RBI single, Rivera hit a batter before finally getting Rod Barajas on an inning-ending fielder's choice with the bases still loaded. Rivera worked the ninth to finish his sixth save in seven chances.
"We don't want it to go that way, but that's baseball," Rivera said. "That happens."
Mussina (5-1) threw 62 of his season-low 86 pitches for strikes for his 229th career victory, fourth most among active pitchers. He struck out five, didn't walk a batter and was charged with two runs.
"He was terrific, threw a lot of strikes, got a lot of first-pitch outs and changed speeds. I love it," Torre said. "All said and done, we won the game and didn't have to drain our horse."
Especially with Mussina scheduled to start against the Boston Red Sox next week.
Derek Jeter was 2-for-5 with two RBI and scored twice for the Yankees, who moved five games over .500 for the first time this season at 16-11.
Brad Wilkerson extended his hitting streak to eight games with a leadoff triple in the third over Johnny Damon's head in center field. Wilkerson was the only Texas runner to get past first while Mussina was on the mound, and scored when Barajas grounded out.
For the first time in 11 games -- eight of them victories -- the Yankees never trailed.
Rangers starter Vicente Padilla (3-2) gave up consecutive singles to Damon and Jeter to start a 39-pitch first inning. The right-hander walked three in the frame, including Jorge Posada with the bases loaded for a 2-0 lead after Rodriguez reached on a fielder's choice that drove in a run.
Padilla retired seven in a row after walking Posada, but the Yankees batted around against Padilla in the fourth before he was finally pulled after Rodriguez made it 7-1 with a two-run single.
"We dug ourselves a pretty big hole early on, but almost got out of it," manager Buck Showalter said.
Each time Rodriguez batted - he went 2-for-4 with a walk to break a 2-for-22 skid -- he was greeted with a loud chorus of boos. A-Rod spent three seasons in Texas, where he won his first AL MVP award in 2003 before being traded to the Yankees the following spring.
The Rangers fans cheered when Rodriguez was charged with an error in the sixth.
In the Yankees' five-run fourth, Damon hit a flyball deep into the left-field corner with the bases loaded. The ball appeared to go in Wilkerson's glove, but dropped out as he got close to the wall, though only one run scored.
Wilkerson was back in the lineup a night after suffering a mild concussion when he crashed hard into the wall on a catch against Baltimore, and had to leave the game.
Jeter then hit a potential double-play grounder, but third baseman Hank Blalock's throw was wide of second, allowing a run. Rodriguez got his two-run single after Jason Giambi drew his second walk of the game -- and AL-leading 32nd.
Padilla struck out four and walked five while allowing seven runs (four earned) and six hits in 3 2/3 innings.
RF Gary Sheffield was in the Yankees lineup for the first time in five games since his collision with Toronto's Shea Hillenbrand left him with a bruised left wrist. He was 0-for-5 before Bubba Crosby replaced him in the bottom of the eighth. ... Wilkerson is hitting .464 (13-for-28) during his hitting streak. ... The Rangers wore special jerseys commemorating Cinco de Mayo that had "Los Rangers" on the front. The jerseys were being raffled off after the game.