"That was one of the days that you always want to be in the big leagues to play," said Cano, who was named after the Hall of Famer by his father, Jose. "That guy opened the door for us. It's amazing to get a chance to wear 42 that day."
All players and on-field personnel in the Bronx wore No. 42 on Tuesday to pay tribute to Robinson one day after the 66th anniversary of his first game for the Dodgers at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947.
Rivera, who was in his third season with the Yankees when Major League Baseball universally retired Robinson's number in 1997, said that it felt noteworthy to log a save -- his third of the season and No. 611 overall -- on this night.
"Definitely -- that's what we try to do, not only today, but every day," Rivera said. "Today is a little bit special, definitely, because we're commemorating Jackie Robinson Day. To come up with the victory and be the guy to close the game, it's pretty good."
Ivan Nova navigated five wobbly innings to pick up his first victory of the season, and Eduardo Nunez lifted a seventh-inning sacrifice fly to provide insurance as the Yankees opened their 2013 Interleague slate with their sixth win in the last seven games.
The victory came on an eventful night in the Bronx, as the Yankees also paid tribute to those affected by Monday's tragedies at the Boston Marathon with a pregame ceremony and the playing of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," a fan favorite at Red Sox games, before the top of the fourth.
"You think about that being a song that's a tradition there -- it's special to Fenway Park and the people of Boston," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We're behind them. Put the baseball teams aside; we want to be there for them."
Making his second start of the year, Nova needed 94 pitches to get through five frames, but he limited Arizona to two runs on seven hits. The right-hander outpitched the D-backs' Brandon McCarthy, who lasted just four innings before the game turned into a battle of the bullpens.
"It feels really good," said Nova, who logged his first win since last Sept. 15. "I was joking with the guys -- I don't remember when the last time was that I won a ballgame. I know that I didn't go far enough in the game. It's something we will keep working on. Hopefully, this is a good sign for me."
Girardi said that the Yankees seemed to wake up from their slow start when Cano's bat came alive, and with his 2-for-4 performance on Tuesday, Cano is now 13-for-26 (.500) with 11 RBIs over his last six games.
"Robbie got going, and we got going as a team," Girardi said. "The big three-run homer tonight ends up being the game-winning hit. It seemed like when he started to get hot, our offense took off a little bit."
Rivera, who was watching as Cano's drive cleared the bullpen and landed in the right-field bleachers, said that Cano's emergence into a bona-fide big league star and team leader should be no surprise.
"I have seen Cano grow through the years," Rivera said. "Since I saw him in the Minor Leagues, he has a kind of easy way to getting it done. You make a mistake with a guy like that, and you're going to pay."
Especially right around the 15th of April. Over the last five Jackie Robinson Days, Cano is hitting .474 (9-for-19) with four homers and eight RBIs.
Cano said that his father, who pitched briefly with the Astros in 1989, told him about Robinson at a young age, but he started to appreciate Robinson's impact only around age 15 or 16.
"You don't realize until you grow a little," Cano said. "You can't understand all the things that he went through. If it wasn't because of him, I wouldn't be here right now."
Both of Arizona's runs off Nova came in the third inning, as Miguel Montero lifted a sacrifice fly and Cody Ross connected for a one-out RBI single, but Nova settled in to clamp the damage there.
"We got his pitch count up early, but he kind of settled down," Arizona's Eric Hinske said. "He was throwing his sinker well and kept us off balance with his curveball and his changeup. We needed to get after him when he had his pitch count up, and we weren't able to do it. "
Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson all pitched well in relief to get the ball to Rivera in the ninth, with the quartet combining for four innings of one-hit work with no walks and three strikeouts.
"Everybody did a tremendous job," Rivera said. "From Logan to Robertson and the rest, we just try to do our job. We've been pitching better, and we want to keep it that way."