ATLANTA -- In the two weeks since the Yankees dropped two out of three to the resurgent Angels in Anaheim, New York's ERA has risen from 18th in Major League Baseball to 10th, heading into Tuesday's game against the Braves at Turner Field.

The Yankees' 3.79 ERA was also good for fifth in the American League behind the Rays, Angels, Rangers and A's.

Yanks manager Joe Girardi said the improved pitching is the prominent reason the Yanks had won nine of their last 11 and with a 35-25 record had tied Tampa Bay for first in the AL East and the top record in the Junior Circuit.

"Who would have thought it?" Girardi said. "I think there's a lot of parity in our league this year. There are a lot of good teams that are going to beat up on each other. Our guys have done a good job of enduring some things. We've had some key injuries. It all has to do with our starting pitching. Our starting pitching has been really good. That's how you put good streaks together."

The bullpen, even sans injured righties Mariano Rivera and David Robertson, has been among the best in the league all year, while up until the re-emergence of Andy Pettitte, the starters had dragged those numbers down.

Going into Tuesday's games, the bullpen was second in the AL behind the Orioles with a 2.79 ERA, and their 16 saves were tied for fourth with Boston. The starters also led the league with 29 wins and were seventh with a 4.23 ERA.

Gardner mum after getting second opinion

ATLANTA -- If Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner knows what to expect from this week's examinations of his strained right elbow, he wasn't saying in the visitors' clubhouse prior to Tuesday night's game against the Braves.

Gardner saw Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on Monday and is scheduled to be examined by Reds orthopedic physician Timothy Kremchek for a third opinion on Thursday. Surgery is a possibility and would delay his return until well into the second half of the season.

"I prefer not to talk about what Andrews said at this point," Gardner said. "I'm going to see Kremchek on Thursday, and I'll tell you guys what the decision is after that. I want to get all the information together before I say anything. Hopefully, it will be positive and we'll go from there."

Gardner has been on the disabled list since making a diving catch at Yankee Stadium against the Twins on April 17. He's tried to rehab the injury twice but has been shut down both times. The elbow injury is particularly bothersome when Gardner swings the bat.

Gardner played in nine games and was batting .321 at the time of the injury. He said that the goal is undoubtedly to play again at some point this year.

"That's what the hope is; that's what it certainly is in my mind," Gardner said. "I've done everything I can do and the training staff has done everything it can possibly do over the last seven weeks to get me back out on the field. It hasn't worked out the way we thought, but hopefully I'll be back soon."

Mo pleased after undergoing surgery

ATLANTA -- Surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Mariano Rivera's right knee went better than expected on Tuesday, when no repairable damage was found in the meniscus in the damaged knee, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

That was good news.

"The less you have to do, the better off you are," Girardi said before Tuesday's game against the Braves at Turner Field. "I'd think that's good news. I'm sure Mo is anxious to get going."

The 42-year-old Rivera tore the ACL and reportedly damaged the meniscus in his right knee while shagging fly balls in the outfield on May 3 before a game in Kansas City.

Rivera would have had the surgery sooner, but doctors discovered a blood clot in his right calf after the knee injury, and he had to take blood-thinning medication to eradicate the clot. When that was fully dissolved, Rivera was able to undergo the knee surgery, which was performed in New York by Mets physician David Altchek.

"He got it repaired," Girardi said. "It's another step toward him coming back. We're all expecting to see Mo next year. I don't think we're going to see him pitch again this year."

Rivera, the Major Leagues' all-time leader with 608 regular-season saves and 42 more in the playoffs, tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that the surgery had gone fine.

"My surgery was a success, it went perfectly," Rivera wrote. "I am looking forward to beginning my rehab soon. Thanks as always for your prayers."

Girardi said there was no timetable for Rivera's return. The right-hander had said in the days after sustaining the injury that he wasn't going to end his career on a sour note and would work hard to return next season.

"A lot of guys, it's whatever their bodies allow them to do," Girardi said. "They can give you a timetable, but that doesn't mean it's going to be before or after. I think we expect him next year."

After passing test, Robertson set to return

ATLANTA -- Yankees reliever David Robertson is expected to be activated from the disabled list in time for his club's weekend Interleague series at Nationals Park beginning on Friday night, manager Joe Girardi said on Tuesday.

Robertson made his second relief outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Louisville on Tuesday in Rochester, N.Y., and pitched an inning without incident, tossing 14 pitches.

"He's fine," Girardi said before Tuesday night's game against the Braves. "He'll be [in Atlanta on Wednesday] -- not active -- and if everything is OK, we'll probably activate him on Friday."

Robertson has been on the disabled list since May 15 with a left oblique strain. He had already pitched one clean inning on Sunday against Louisville, throwing 11 pitches, eight of them strikes.

Robertson made a couple of appearances as a closer after Mariano Rivera went down for the season with a torn right anterior cruciate ligament early last month. After Robertson was injured, Rafael Soriano assumed the closer's role; the right-hander has nine saves this year but blew one against the Mets in the ninth inning on Sunday at Yankee Stadium in a game the Yankees eventually won, 5-4.

Robertson had one save and one blown save during his short stint as Rivera's fill-in. Overall, he has allowed four earned runs and whiffed 24 batters in 14 1/3 innings.

Girardi said there really is nothing else Robertson needs to accomplish before the Yanks activate him.

"You just want to make sure he's OK [on Wednesday]," Girardi said.

Nova savors first big league hit

ATLANTA -- The baseball from Ivan Nova's first Major League hit on Monday night is going in a prized place on the night table next his bed, along with the balls from his first big league victory and first strikeout.

Nova smacked a solid single to right-center field with two outs and no one on in the second inning of Monday's 3-0 Yankees victory over the Braves at Turner Field.

Hitting during Interleague Play in a National League park, Nova seemed as excited about the hit as he was about his eighth victory in 10 decisions. The Yanks right-hander combined with four relievers to shut down the Braves on five singles, all of them off Nova in his seven innings. Nova walked one, whiffed six and went 1-for-3 at the plate with a pair of strikeouts.

The hit came off Braves starter and losing pitcher Randall Delgado.

"I was going to hack at the first pitch, but he was throwing hard, so I took it," Nova said. "He was throwing, like, 100 [mph]. On that second pitch, I wasn't thinking about getting a base hit; I just wanted to make contact. I didn't want to strike out. I got a pretty good swing on it. It was fun."

At the plate, Yankees pitchers are a combined 31-for-306 (.086) with eight doubles and 11 RBIs since the advent of Interleague Play in 1997. No Yanks pitcher has hit a homer.

Nova said that if he were to accomplish that, the home run ball would go on the night table with the others.