Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mussina Comes Up Aces

Righty Pitches Gem in 3-1 Win

The Yankees will live and die by their pitching this season, counting heavily on the first two starters in the rotation - Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina. The Yankees needed a huge effort yesterday afternoon against the Blue Jays after Johnson got raked over the coals Tuesday night. Mussina gave his team just that – a 7 1/3 inning, 1 run performance in a 3-1 Yankees victory.

Mussina has never liked being associated with the word ace, has been throwing like one so far this year. He’s delivered quality starts in all four of his 2006 starts and is now 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA. Yesterday he scattered 7 hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out 7. He might have had a shutout if not for the shoddy play of Gary Sheffield in right. Most importantly, Mussina kept the opponent down on a day when the Yankees struggled to score runs.

Jays’ starter Ted Lilly blanked the Yankees through the first four innings, with Jason Giambi stranding 3 runners in scoring position in threat ending at-bats. The Yankees finally broke through in the fifth when Alex Rodriguez smacked a deep drive to left-center field for his 5th home run of the season. Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, and Robinson came through with consecutive 2-out singles to push a second run across later in the inning.

The Jays got one back in the sixth after Sheffield misplayed a ball hit by Frank Catalonotto. Russ Adams had single with one and out and Catalanotto followed with a catchable bloop to right-center. Sheffield was late getting to the ball and it dropped in, setting up the Jays for a big inning. Vernon Wells followed with an RBI single cutting the lead in half. Mussina picked up his teammates though, striking out Troy Glaus and getting Lyle Overbay to hit a harmless grounder to first baseman Andy Phillips.

The Yankees added a big tack-on run in the seventh. After a leadoff walk to Alex Rodriguez, reliever Scott Schoenweis hit Giambi on the right forearm with a pitch. Matsui grounded into a double play, but Posada delivered a 2-out RBI single to score Rodriguez.

Mussina threw 95 pitches through 7 innings, nearing the 100 pitch mark where he tends to falter. After getting Adams to line out, Catalanotto again singled, sending Joe Torre out to the mound and a call to reliever Kyle Farnsworth. Mussina received a big greeting in the dugout from his teammates who truly appreciated his effort.

Mariano Rivera closed things out with an easy ninth inning and the Yankees prepared to head home for a nine game home stand.


In what could become a regular occurrence, Bubba Crosby replaced Sheffield in the ninth inning for defensive purposes. Sheffield misplayed balls in both games of the two game series.

Jason Giambi had a big welt on his right forearm courtesy of a Scott Schoenweis pitch. X-Rays were negative and Giambi is hopeful of playing on Friday night.

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