Thursday's off-day cleary didn't faze the win-happy Yanks. Nor did last Saturday's 131 pitches faze the suddenly vintage Mike Mussina. After featuring a fastball that finally reached the low 90s to shutout the A's last weekend, Mussina switched to a reliance on a sharp knuckle curve last night to hold those same A's to two runs on six hits and a walk over seven innings while striking out an encouraging nine men. Suddenly my claims of Moose's demise seem alarmingly premature. Check out his last three starts combined:
23 IP, 15 H, 4 R, 1 HR, 5 BB, 14 K
In the process he's dropped his season ERA from 4.97 to 3.46. Of course, I'll feel better about Mussina once he turns in a solid performance against a team other than the punchless A's or the last-place Devil Rays, but he certainly is a pleasure to watch right now.
While Moose was cruising the Yanks got out to a 2-0 lead on a first inning home run by Gary Sheffield, who has four homers through the first half of May after hitting just two in April. A 2-RBI triple by Tony Womack (who has a hit in 9 of the Yankees 11 games this month), and two sac flies by Hideki Matsui added four more runs.
In the ninth, Jason Giambi followed lead-off walks by Tino Martinez (who's homer streak was stopped at five) and Jorge Posada with his first hit since April 28, a single to right which Bobby Kielty misplayed for two extra bases, allowing both baserunners to score. Robinson Cano followed with a double that plated Giambi to put the Yanks up 9-2. Cano was 3 for 4 on the night with a pair of doubles and is now 5 for 7 in his last two games with three doubles. After hitting seemingly ever pitch on the ground to second during his first six or seven games in the majors, Cano is suddenly driving the ball into the gaps with regularity.
Joe Torre went back to the well with Tom Gordon in the eighth despite holding a four-run lead against the worst offense in baseball, but given three more runs to work with in the ninth, finally took Mike Stanton out of mothballs. Understandably, Stanton was rusty, surrendering two runs before he was able to get the third out. Paul Quantrill finished the job. 9-4 Yanks.
Kevin Brown vs. Joe Blanton tonight at 9:05 EST as the Yanks try to make it seven in a row.