My headlines have been boring as beans recently. Sorry about that. Then again, there's something to be said for truth in advertising.
After last night's 15-2 massacre (I particularly liked the Daily News's WBC-inspired headline "No Mercy"), the A's look for a little get back with their ace Rich Harden on the mound against the mysterious Mike Mussina. Mussina has suffered a glaring decline the last two years, in part due to elbow problems that one can't expect will go away as he begins his age-37 season, no matter how good he may have felt at the end of spring training.
Harden, meanwhile, is a 24-year-old stud with a devastating repertoire, a textbook delivery, and a very bright future. Funny, then that the last time either pitcher faced tonight's opponent they did it against one another in Oakland in a game that saw Harden leave due to injury and Mussina pitch a gem.
Harden left that game, a 9-4 Yankee victory marred only by an ugly outing from Mike Stanton in relief, after an inning and a third with a strained oblique muscle, an injury which appears to be all the rage these days. He didn't pitch again for more than a month.
Mike Mussina made two starts against the A's last year. Those two starts came on consecutive turns in early May and turned out to not only be Mussina's best back-to-back starts of the year, but part of the salvation of the Yankees' season.
With his team 11-19 entering a Saturday afternoon game against the A's at the Stadium, Mussina took the mound and hurled a beautiful four-hit shutout that kicked off a ten-game winning streak. Game five of that streak was Mussina's second start against the A's described above in which Moose went seven allowing two runs on six hits and a walk and striking out nine. His season line against the A's was thus: 16 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 BB, 12 K.
That catch is that the A's lineups that Mussina faced in those two games contained just four of the hitters he will face tonight (Kotsay, Kendall, Chavez and, in the first of the two only, Ellis) while the rest of the order was filled out by men such as Scott Hatteberg, Keith Ginter, Marco Scutaro, Eric Byrnes, Bobby Kielty and an ineffective Erubiel Durazo (0 for 7 in those games and .237/.305/.368 on the year on his way to Tommy John surgery). Tonight those players will be replaced by Dan Johnson, Bobby Crosby, Milton Bradley, Nick Swisher and Frank Thomas. Add in a healthy Harden and Moose and the Yanks have their work cut out for them tonight.