The Yankees lost a game they should have, could have won last night. However, they still return home to the Bronx having won their first series of the year. Mike Mussina was touched for three first-inning runs (again), but he pitched well after than. I was thinking, "Here we go again," during the first, but Mussina improved as the game moved along. He did hang a breaking ball to Joe Crede, who popped a solo homer in the sixth, but overall, Mussina looked good enough by the end of the night for Yankee fans to let out a sigh of relief. As YES analyst Jim Kaat noted, by the eighth inning Mussina was "throwing his pitches with more conviction." His breaking balls were sharp, though his fastball was still only clocked in the high-eighties.
The Yankee offense sputtered again. After scoring a couple in the third, Alex Rodriguez was robbed of a game-tying RBI single by Timo Perez in center field. Gary Sheffield ended the eighth by grounding into a double play, and Travis Lee ended the game by doing the same. The most frustrating part of Lee's double play was that he hit the ball slowly enough to allow the tying run to score from third. He simply couldn't truckulate his wide-load down to first in time and was thrown out by a step.
The top half of the Yankee line up didn't do anything; the bottom-half kept them in the game. Tony Clark started at first base and drew three walks, as Jason Giambi was given the night off. Jorge Posada collected a couple of hits, and Miguel Cairo looked decent as well. (When Cairo used to play for the Devil Rays, I called him the Bizzaro Jeter, because he looked like an fugly, compressed version of the Yanke shortstop. Now, I think he looks like a combination of Jeter and Oliver Stone.) Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter continue to struggle. Williams looks especially lost at the plate.
The Yanks face the Red Sox in the Boogie Down tonight. Jose Contreras goes against Derek Lowe. Yankee pitching coach Mel Stotlemyre feels good about the work Contreras has put in since he was bombed in Beantown last weekend. According to the New York Times:
"He's changed a couple of things," Stottlemyre said. "I'm not going to tell you what they are, but you'll probably see them. We're trying to eliminate some things. We're trying to eliminate their getting pitches, which we think they've done before. He feels really good right now about himself."
..."I finally got something back from him," Stottlemyre said. "Rather than just hearing me talk, I got some conversation back. He and I both are on the same page now, and that's very important.
"I told him it's very important I get some feedback on and off, during the start and between the starts. So I've got high hopes."
I expect that Contreras will be better tonight (how could he be worse?), but I also think that Lowe will be much improved as well. The Blue Jays finally won a game at home, beating the Sox last night. I'm going to tomorrow afternoon's game at the stadium (my first game of the season). Hopefully, the Yanks can win two of three. I'm as curious as the next guy to see how Rodriguez and Sheffield will perform.