Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mussina Pitches Yankees Back To The Top

Home Runs Back the Real Ace's Effort

One night after the Yankees and Randy Johnson were humiliated by the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees sent their true top pitcher to the mound to exact some revenge. Things didn't start out too well for Mike Mussina (6-1), but they turned around for him and the Yankee bats in big time fashion as the Yankees rallied for a 7-3 win.

The Yankees fell behind in the early going thanks in large part once again to David Ortiz. Big Papi was in a 1-20 slump when he came to the Bronx on Tuesday, and has gone 5-8 since. Yesterday's 4-4 performance included a 2-run blast off of Mussina in the first inning for his 12th home run of the season. One inning later, Mike Lowell turned on a pitch that Moose left up in the strike zone and sent it into the left field seats for a 3-0 lead.

Curt Schilling struck out two in the bottom of the first and many Yankee fans were probably thinking, "Here we go again". The Yankees offense quickly turned that around though as Mussina settled in. With one out in the second, Jorge Posada doubled to the gap in right-center and Robinson extended his hitting streak to 9 games with a line single to center. With runners on the corners, Bernie Williams pushed the Yankees first run across with a sacrifice fly to center field. Melky Cabrera continued the rally with a hard earned walk before Manny Ramirez made a nice over the shoulder grab on Johnny Damon's tailing fly to left to end the inning.

The Red Sox threatened against Mussina again in the third loading the bases with 2 outs. Ortiz beat the shift with a single and Manny Ramirez followed with a double to left. After walking Trot Nixon, Mussina escaped trouble by getting Jason Varitek to ground to Alex Rodriguez at third.

The Yankees pounced on Schilling in the bottom half of the third. Derek Jeter lined a single to right and was followed by Jason Giambi who is as locked in as anyone right now. Giambi hit a backdoor cutter high arching high in the night sky and into the right-center field bleachers to tie the game, 3-3.

The game remained tied until the fifth inning. Schilling struck out Jeter and Giambi to start it off, but then A-Rod crushed a pitch off the front of the upper deck in left for a 4-3 lead. Two batters later, Jorge Posada turned on a hanging breaking pitch and launched a 2-run homer to right for a 6-3 lead. Schilling (5-2) would finish the inning, but he was done for the evening, his shortest outing of the season.

The Yankees added some insurance in the 6th off of newly called up reliever Mike Holtz. Bernie Williams switched around to the right side and led off with a double. After Melky Cabrera sacrificed him to third, Damon finally got a big hit against his former mates, singling to center to increase the lead to 7-3.

Mussina cruised into the 7th where he allowed a two single and was lifted from the mound by Joe Torre. Mussina exited to a standing ovation from the 54,000 plus fans and waved his hand in appreciation. The Red Sox put runners on the corners with two out for Manny Ramirez, but the new star of the bullpen, Scott Proctor, blew a fastball by him for an inning ending strike out. Mariano Rivera pitched an easy 1-2-3 ninth inning in a non-save situation to nail down the win.

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