Thanks to a problem putting on a pair of shoes, that didn't matter Thursday night.
Rivera injured his back getting dressed for the game, and the Tigers rallied for two runs in the ninth off replacement closer Kyle Farnsworth to beat the short-handed New York Yankees 7-6 and end a four-game losing streak.
Rivera was putting on his spikes about 90 minutes before the game when his back tightened.
"He had one shoe on, and when he went to put the left shoe on, something spasmed," Yankees manager Joe Torre said before the game.
Torre didn't blame Farnsworth, who pitched for Detroit last season before being traded to Atlanta.
"That's not his job -- he's the setup guy," Torre said. "The thing that hurts him is that he throws hard, but sometimes he tries to make a pitch and hit a spot instead of saying 'Here, hit it.'"
The Tigers didn't know about the injury, so they were stunned to see their former teammate preparing to enter the game. Two days earlier, Rivera had dominated the Tigers, needing just 25 pitches to record three scoreless innings in an 11-inning victory.
"I looked at the bullpen camera and I saw Farnsworth warming up," outfielder Magglio Ordonez said. "I said 'Wow. They aren't going to use Rivera. We might have a chance.'"
With one out, Farnsworth (1-3) walked Marcus Thames, then allowed a single to Ivan Rodriguez.
Ordonez followed with a game-tying single, his fourth RBI of the game, and Carlos Guillen lined Detroit's 13th hit of the to right field as Rodriguez scored easily from second.
"Mariano is a great pitcher, but maybe we made him stiffen from pitching three innings the other night," Rodriguez said. "We came back again. This is a big win."
Farnsworth is 1-for-4 in save situations.
"It's terrible -- it is uncalled for, what I did," he said. "My job is to go out there and get three outs."
Fernando Rodney (4-1) picked up the win in relief as Detroit ended New York's five-game winning streak and avoided a sweep.
"I don't know how good we are," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I do know this game says something about our team."
New York starter Chien-Ming Wang was given a 5-0 lead, but only lasted four-plus innings. He gave up five runs, eight hits and three walks.
"It didn't look like he attacked the strike zone," Torre said.
Rookie Justin Verlander started for the Tigers, and allowed six runs, seven hits and four walks in five innings.
"He got away from his strengths -- he was pitching careful instead of pitching aggressive," Leyland said. "That's what happens when you see the Yanks for the first time."
The Yankees scored a run on consecutive doubles by Robinson Cano and Andy Phillips in the second, then added four more in the third.
Johnny Damon led off with a double, and walks to Melky Cabrera and Alex Rodriguez loaded the bases with one out. Jorge Posada doubled into the right-field corner, scoring all three runners, and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Phillips to make it 5-0.
The Tigers came back with three runs in the fourth. Singles by Curtis Granderson, Thames and Rodriguez loaded the bases with no outs, and Wang walked Ordonez to force in a run.
Guillen's RBI single made it 5-2, and Omar Infante's one-out base hit added another run before Wang could escape the inning.
Jason Giambi led off the fifth with his 14th homer, an opposite-field shot that made it 6-3, but the Tigers plated two in the bottom of the inning.
Once again, Granderson, Thames and Rodriguez loaded the bases with no outs, this time on two singles and a walk. Darrell Rasner replaced Wang and allowed a two-run single to Ordonez before retiring the next three batters.
- The Yankees called up OF Kevin Thompson from Triple-A Columbus to replace Sheffield.
- The Yankees have led in their last 13 games and had at least 10 hits in their last eight.
- Tigers starter Mike Maroth will undergo arthroscopic elbow surgery on Friday in Los Angeles.
- Guillen made his first career major league start at first base. He played there for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
- C Ben Davis (elbow ligament replacement surgery) is scheduled to join Triple-A Columbus early next week. He joined Class-A Tampa on Thursday after playing for the extended spring training team.
- Cano matched a career high with four hits.