Mussina W10-3 | 6IP | 8H | 5ER | 1BB | 3K | 4.62ERA
DENVER -- When Shane Spencer went out to take batting practice before Tuesday's game at Coors Field, he went to the cage with one thing in mind: Don't hit fly balls.
With balls carrying in the air in the mile-high atmosphere, Spencer was afraid that watching too many balls leave the yard in BP would result in the temptation to try to repeat the feat in the game, only he wasn't going to be facing BP pitchers when the contest began.
"In BP, I tried to hit balls on the ground or hit line drives, so I didn't get conscious of trying to hit fly balls," Spencer said. "That's how bad habits start."
So what did Spencer do in his first at-bat? He launched a ball about 400 feet, good for his fifth home run of the season. That was the kind of night it would be for the Yankees, who took advantage of the hitter-friendly atmosphere, breaking out for 10 runs on 17 hits against the Rockies in a 10-5 win.
"It was a good night for us, up and down the batting order," said manager Joe Torre. "I was wondering for a while if there were going to be any zeros on the scoreboard."
That's because both teams came out with a bang, scoring two runs each in the opening frame. Derek Jeter hit his ninth homer of the season in the first off Colorado starter Jason Jennings, and Robin Ventura added an RBI single to give the Yankees a quick 2-0 lead. But Rockies second baseman Brent Butler answered with a solo shot of his own off Mike Mussina, and Todd Zeile's groundout scored Larry Walker from third, tying the game after one inning.
New York continued the scoring in the second, as Spencer blasted his solo shot and Jason Giambi drove in two with a single up the middle. Mussina gave one run back in the second, but the Yankees picked up another in the third on Nick Johnson's RBI double. By the end of the third inning, every Yankees starter -- including Mussina -- had collected at least one base hit.
"It was a good day to be a hitter, and not such a fun day to be a pitcher. Today, I got to do both, and it worked out both ways for me," Mussina said. "The way the first three innings went, where everyone was scoring back and forth, it felt like a softball game. You knew someone was going to score, you just didn't know how many. This is a unique place to play."
Colorado's Butler, who entered the game with one career homer in the Majors, hit another solo shot against Mussina in the fifth, but that was just one of two hits the right-hander gave up over his final three innings. Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton closed out the game with three shutout innings, as the Yankees held the Rockies scoreless over five if the last six frames.
"After the first, I was thinking that I hope I never have to pitch here again," Mussina said. "I'm getting to see first-hand what everyone talks about, what this place is about. It officially lived up to everything that people had said about it. It's a tough place to pitch."
The Yankees offense didn't seem to be affected by the humidor-treated balls, as they now have 109 home runs in their first 70 games. New York is on pace to hit about 250 for the season, which would break the franchise record of 240, accomplished in 1961. That Yankees team had 100 homers after 70 games.
"I don't know what the humidor was doing, but it wasn't doing it tonight," Mussina said. "There was a lot of hitting on both sides. Whoever was up, it looked like they were going to get at least one. For half the game, that's the way it went."
"I've got to believe their strength index on their 25-man roster is pretty strong," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. "Their lineup, they've got a couple of switch-hitters they can throw at you in there, they've got some pop, they can hit the long ball, a little bit of speed. It's a very good offensive product and their pitchers aren't bad, either."
Alfonso Soriano found Coors Field particularly to his liking, going 3-for-4 with a single, double and triple. His first-inning flyout to left-center field fell about 10 feet shy of leaving the park, which could have given the second baseman his first career cycle. He and Jeter combined to go 6-for-9 in the top two spots in the lineup, scoring three runs and driving in three more.
"That's our job, to get on base. When we get on, more often than not we're going to score a lot of runs," Jeter said. "You don't ever want to score runs early and feel comfortable because of your pitching staff. They're not always going to shut teams out. Today, we were able to keep piling on the runs."
After a three-game series against the Mets last weekend in which the Yankees scored a total of six runs, Ventura said that this was exactly what the doctor ordered.
"Coming out of that series, getting on the road, it was nice to get some runs," Ventura said. "Especially here, where you know you have to score runs."
Ventura capped the night for New York with his 17th home run of the season, a two-run shot in the ninth that gave the Yankees a five-run lead. Ventura's homer was measured at an estimated 438 feet, and could not have been classified as a "Coors Field homer."
"In BP, the ball was carrying. But the home runs we hit tonight, I don't care where we were playing, they would have gone out," Jeter said. "You're going to benefit from this place if you play here long enough, and I'm sure we will over the three games. But tonight, we didn't."
They didn't need to.
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