Like Randy Johnson the night before, Mike Mussina wasn't sharp yesterday afternoon, but still managed to keep his team in the game, limiting the Orioles to three runs in his five innings of work. Not that it mattered much. Rookie Adam Loewen, backed by some great defense by Brandon Fahey and Miguel Tejada, allowed just one hit, a first-inning single by Bobby Abreu, while striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings, and relievers Todd Williams and LaTroy Hawkins set the last eight Yanks down in order. It was the first time the Yankees had been limited to one-hit since July 16, 2004 when Mike Maroth pitched a complete-game one-hit shutout against the Yankees in Comerica Park. In that case the one hit was a Gary Sheffield double and the Yankees managed just three other base runners on an error and a pair of walks, one of which was erased by a double play. Yesterday the Yanks did a tad better, drawing five walks off Loewen such that each of the top six men in the order reached base exactly once (though, again, one was erased by a twin killing).
As surprising as that performance was given how well the team has been playing of late, winning nine of their previous ten and their first four games following the trading deadline, it was the fourth time this season the team failed to win its sixth consecutive game. Ron Villone, pitching in his fourth game in the last five days, gave up a pair of runs in the sixth to run the final score to 5-0, just the second time this season that the Yankees have been shutout.
The only worthwhile thing that came out of yesterday's game was that Jose Veras finally made his major league debut, pitching two hitless innings in which he allowed just one base runner, a lead-off walk to Jay Gibbons in the eighth that was erased by a double play. That said, Veras had some control issues, failing to record a single K despite his impressive minor league rates and throwing just 46 percent of his pitches for strikes.
Today the Yankees look to avoid what would be a humiliating series loss to the Orioles by sending Jaret Wright to the mound to face Rodrigo Lopez. Wright is coming off throwing a season-high 103 pitches in his last outing, but also has a fairly impressive line over his last two starts: 10 1/3 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 8 K. Despite being a fly ball pitcher, Wright has allowed just four home runs all season, that's one every 22 2/3 innings, a lower home run rate than Chien-Ming Wang's.
As for Lopez, he's been even better over his last two starts: 13 1/3 IP, 15 H, 2 R, 0 HR, 1 BB, 10 K. Of course one of those games came against the Royals, but in his last outing, against the Mariners, Lopez pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and needed just 82 pitches to do it. Of course, the Yankees handled Lopez well back in early June (four runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 on their way to an 11-4 win), two starts after he had a very similar outing against Seattle.