Mussina L3-2 | 7IP | 5H | 3ER | 3BB | 4K | 3.73ERA
NEW YORK -- The Oakland A's struck early and often, picking up a run in each of the first three innings against Mike Mussina as they defeated the New York Yankees 4-1 Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. Oakland took advantage of an error by right fielder John Vander Wal in the first inning as Scott Hatteberg drove Frank Menechino home with an RBI single to give the A's a quick 1-0 lead.
Miguel Tejada led off the second with a single, and after Mussina issued a pair of walks to Terrence Long and Carlos Peņa, Jeremy Giambi's fielder's choice gave Oakland 2-0 lead.
Jermaine Dye, playing in his fifth game after returning from a broken left tibia, crushed a 2-2 pitch from Mussina to lead off the third into the right-field seats. At that point, Oakland had a 3-0 lead for starter Erik Hiljus to protect.
"He couldn't get the breaking ball down early, and after that it looked like he was fighting himself," said Yankees manager Joe Torre of Mussina. "The last couple of innings, I thought he was fine. It was just one of those things. I think he had better stuff out there (than last start) but the command wasn't there."
Hiljus baffled the Yankees through the first five innings, holding New York to three hits and a pair of walks, striking out nine batters as he kept them off the scoreboard.
"He worked his fastball in and out, hit his spots when he had to," said Shane Spencer. "When a pitcher has his control, they can get you. We didn't hit many balls hard tonight."
Oakland ran into trouble in the sixth, when the Yankees posted their biggest threat of the game. Derek Jeter doubled off Hiljus to lead off the inning, sending A's manager Art Howe to the mound where he removed Hiljus from the game in favor of Mike Magnante. After Jason Giambi's groundout moved Jeter to third, Magnante walked Jorge Posada and Robin Ventura, loading the bases for Shane Spencer.
Howe then called on Jeff Tam to face Spencer, who hurt Oakland with a bases-loaded single in Tuesday's game. Tam did his job, inducing a ground ball for the second out of the inning, though Jeter scored to put New York on the scoreboard.
Howe next brought in lefty Mike Venafro to face pinch-hitter Ron Coomer. Venafro retired Coomer on three strikes, maintaining the A's 4-1 lead after six.
"He threw me three changeups," Coomer said. "I've faced him before, and usually he came hard in and hard away, and then mixed in a changeup. It's been a couple of years since I've faced him, so maybe he's changed his routine a little bit."
Mussina went seven innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks. He struck out four, as his record fell to 3-2 on the season.
"I'm not too disappointed, because I was able to figure something out and get through seven innings, which the last couple of times, I wasn't able to do," Mussina said. "It's something to work on, to try to improve on next time."
Hiljus earned the win to improve to 3-1, allowing one run in five-plus innings. He surrendered four hits and two walks, striking out nine.
"To win in this park against this team in my first time start here, it's pretty special," Hiljus said. "I've got a ton of respect for the New York Yankees and Yankee Stadium, so this was a big night for me personally."
Billy Koch, Oakland's sixth pitcher of the game, tossed a scoreless ninth for his sixth save of the season.
"Erik pitched a fine game, and our bullpen was just outstanding," Howe said. "Especially Venafro. That was big, big out in the sixth inning. The ballgame was right there, for both teams."
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