Apparently the recipe for a pitchers duel is to have Mike Mussina face Scott Feldman. Feldman beat Moose 2-1 in the Bronx at the end of June. Last night, Mussina returned the favor, tossing seven shutout innings as the Yankees pulled out a 3-0 win and a series split in Arlington. It was the first time the Rangers had been shutout at home all year. The last game at the Ballpark in Arlington to end with three or fewer runs scored was a May Day duel between Sidney Ponson and Zack Greinke, which the Rangers won 2-1. The only game since that was close saw Feldman beat Greg Smith and the A's 4-0 on May 9.
Derek Jeter gave Mussina all the runs he'd need with a solo homer in the first of Feldman. Johnny Damon singled home Wilson Betemit in the fifth to double the Yankee lead, and Jeter singled Betemit home in the ninth to set the final score. Both times Betemit scored after replacing Robinson Cano on base via a fielder's choice on a comebacker to the mound.
Betemit's trip around the bases in the ninth was particularly interesting. Cano doubled off Jamey Wright to start the inning. Betemit then grounded back to Wright, who caught Cano off second and got him in a rundown as Betemit reached first safely on the fielder's choice. Jose Molina then hit a sinking liner to second base. Betemit thought the ball was going to be caught, so he retreated to first, but Ian Kinsler took a step back and let the ball drop before fielding and flipping to rookie first baseman Chris Davis. Davis instinctualy stepped on the bag only to be surprised to see Betemit already standing there. Unfortunately for the Rangers, by stepping on the bag, Davis retired Molina and removed the force on Betemit, who was then called safe when Davis attempted to tag him out. Singles by Damon and Jeter then plated Betemit with the final Yankee run.
Said Mussina after the game, "You get some breaks sometimes. I've never seen a ground ball that the guy doesn't run from first and he's safe, stays there and is safe, and then we end up getting two hits and scoring a run. I've never seen that."
Mussina also got a break in the sixth when Marlon Byrd, who had doubled with one out, strayed too far off second on a comebacker to the mound. Mussina whirled and ran right at Byrd forcing him toward Alex Rodriguez, who took the throw from Mussina and caught Byrd retreating for the second out. Brandon Boggs, who had hit the comebacker, likely expected a longer rundown and was on his way to second as Byrd was tagged out. Rodriguez then flipped to Cano, who tagged Boggs for the final out of the inning (making it all the more surprising that Cano was similarly caught off second base on that ninth-inning comebacker).
By his own admission, Mussina didn't have his best stuff, but he got the outs he needed to keep the Rangers from scoring. The sixth was one of three innings that ended in a double play as Mussina scattered eight hits and walked one. In fact, each of Mussina's first six innings ended in either a double play or a strikeout with a runner in scoring position. His only 1-2-3 inning was his last. After Byrd and Boggs were doubled up in the sixth, however, the Rangers didn't get another men on base, as the Yankee bullpen was perfect in relief of Mussina, with Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte splitting the eighth inning, and Mariano Rivera picking up his 28th save in as many chances.
The win was the 265th of Mussina's career and the 15th of his season, marking the eleventh season in his 18-year career that he's reached that total, and the fifth time in his eight seasons with the Yankees. If he stays healthy, Mussina will make nine more starts this year.