No pitcher wants a stint on the disabled list, yet it appears to have cured whatever was ailing Joe Saunders.
"The cortisone shot helped, too," he said, smiling.
Saunders pitched into the ninth inning against a powerful Yankees lineup, and the Los Angeles Angels prevented New York from wrapping up a playoff spot by winning 5-2 Monday night in a matchup of AL division leaders.
"Since he's come back, you see everything back to where it should be," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "A lot of life on his sinker. He's hopefully through that little rough spot."
Saunders (14-7) had one win in eight starts before being sidelined Aug. 8 with irritation in his left shoulder. Since returning on Aug. 26, he has posted a 2.11 ERA and won five consecutive decisions.
"At that time, I was trying to fight through stuff and trying to pitch through stuff and just didn't have the confidence I could make the good pitch when I needed to," Saunders said. "Now I'm throwing the ball well and my shoulder's healthy."
Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter hit consecutive RBI doubles in the first off Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte (13-7), who lost for the first time in 10 starts. He allowed three runs in six innings and said his troublesome shoulder felt strong.
New York skipped Pettitte's previous turn in the rotation because of shoulder fatigue.
Kendry Morales added a pinch-hit homer for the Angels.
"I threw the ball well, especially against a great-hitting club like they are," Saunders said. "I didn't have my best stuff, but I located it when I needed to and got some big double plays."
The Angels earned their 90th victory for the seventh time in nine seasons and reduced their magic number to six for clinching their third consecutive AL West title.
As usual, Scioscia didn't want to talk about magic numbers.
"How 'bout magic Joe Saunders?" he quipped. "That was a nice effort against a very, very good lineup."
Saunders said he tweaked the patella tendon in his left leg coming out of the dugout in the second inning.
"I jumped an extra step like I do all the time," he said. "It was weird. I didn't feel it on every step. I felt it coming off the mound or pushing off on it on my toe. It didn't hurt me, so hopefully it goes away tomorrow."
Alex Rodriguez and pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui homered for the Yankees, who have dropped six of 10. They could have secured a postseason spot with a win or a Texas loss at Oakland. The Rangers beat the Athletics 10-3.
"We'd like to get it locked up, but we haven't been winning," Pettitte said. "We've been playing so well the second half, but we're kind of in a little lull right now. So more than anything, we just want to get it going again and get back on the winning ways."
That's not a problem for the Angels.
They've won four of five and remained a season-best 7 1/2 games ahead of second-place Texas. They also moved within 4 1/2 games of New York in the race for the best record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
"All year long our bats have been carrying us," Saunders said. "Us starters have kind of figured it out. We're on a roll right now, so hopefully we can keep that going. We're playing good defense and that's our key."
The Yankees, looking for their 14th playoff berth in 15 years, stayed five games ahead of Boston in the AL East because the Red Sox blew a pair of six-run leads in a 12-9 loss at Kansas City.
New York has squandered a pair of chances to clinch at least the AL wild card, losing the past two days to the Mariners and Angels.
"It's a bump in the road, but it happens. You just have to work your way through it," Derek Jeter said. "I really don't think we've been playing all that bad."
Saunders did not walk a batter in 8 1-3 innings. Brian Fuentes got two outs for his 44th save in 51 chances.
Rangers 10, Athletics 3
At Oakland, Calif., Kevin Millwood (11-10) did not allow an earned run in seven innings, snapping the Athletics' season-high seven-game winning streak.
Millwood reached 180 innings for the season, guaranteeing him $12 million next season in the fifth and final year of his contract. David Murphy had three hits and the Rangers won for the second time in eight games, moving within seven games of Boston for the AL wild card.
Twins 7, White Sox 0
At Chicago, Nick Blackburn pitched seven sharp innings and Minnesota won for the seventh time in eight games, moving within 2 1/2 of first-place Detroit in the AL Central.
Orlando Cabrera scored three runs and drove in two against his former team. Blackburn (11-11) improved to 4-1 this season against the White Sox, who fell seven games behind the Tigers.
Royals 12, Red Sox 9
At Kansas City, Mo., Mike Jacobs hit a three-run homer and Alberto Callaspo's two-run double keyed the Royals' biggest inning in almost a year.
After falling behind 6-0 in the third and 8-2 in the fifth, Kansas City took an 11-9 lead with six runs in the sixth, the most it had scored in one inning since Sept. 24, 2008. It was the 11th win in 14 games for the Royals, who climbed out of last place in the AL Central.
Joakim Soria earned his 27th save. Jason Bay hit a three-run homer in Boston's six-run third, his career-high 36th.
Blue Jays 9, Orioles 2
At Toronto, Lyle Overbay and John McDonald homered, and David Purcey (1-2) won for the first time in more than a year as the Blue Jays handed Baltimore its fifth straight loss.
Attendance was 11,598, the third straight game Toronto has drawn fewer than 12,000 fans. Toronto's all-time low is 10,074, set April 17, 1979, against the Chicago White Sox.