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Yankees 12 @ Devil Rays 9

Friday July 19, 2002

Mussina W13-4 | 6IP | 9H | 4ER | 1BB | 4K | 4.47ERA

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- With injuries, changing roles and two off days in the last week launching wicked knuckleballs into their path, the Yankees are turning games over to their offense.

But the most powerful team in the Majors would prefer to return to the method of their previous winning ways.

"As many home runs and hits as we get, I still profess that we are a pitching team," manager Joe Torre said. "That's what has worked for us in the past and we need to get back to that. It's just a matter of getting back to what we do best."

The Yankees beat the Devil Rays on Friday night for the ninth time in 10 games this season but it was by the score of 12-9 and it took several big late hits to ensure the victory. Overall, the Yankees collected 10 hits and 10 walks but it was clear from their performance that they may struggle for a while without Mariano Rivera.

Rivera was put on the 15-day DL, retroactive to Sunday, July 21, and the Yankees are hoping to have him back by Aug. 5. But until then, everybody in the bullpen moves up a notch, with Mike Stanton and Steve Karsay expected to close out games.

Stanton same on in the seventh for a struggling Mike Mussina and lasted just 1/3 of an inning. He faced only four batters and gave up three hits and three runs.

"Every pitcher goes through streaks, good and bad," Stanton said. "I can't talk for the rest of the guys, but me, personally, I just threw the ball down the middle. When you throw the ball down the middle, it doesn't matter who you are playing, they are going to hit it. I am a perfectionist and I expect to get everyone out."

Ramiro Mendoza rescued Stanton and then Mendoza need to be rescued in the ninth by Karsay, who got his fourth save but let two runs score. In all, the pitching staff yielded 17 hits and two walks.

"It wasn't pretty by any stretch of the imagination," Torre said. "Stanton was up with everything, Mendoza was OK until he got tired, and Karsay only threw one bad pitch.

"The biggest thing that hurt Moose was the fact that he had seven days (since his last start)."

Mussina got his 13th win of the season but said he never got into any kind of rhythm.

"Today was tough from the beginning," Mussina said. "There was a lot of time between innings and sometimes that makes it seem like six months instead of six days (between starts)."

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said he has faith the pitching will sort itself out. Roger Clemens, on the 15-day DL with a tight right groin, is scheduled to start a minor-league game Saturday night in Tampa, after which the Yankees should know more about his recovery.

"Fortunately, we're winning right now without as good a pitching as we expect," Stottlemyre said. "We've made a lot of pitching mistakes but our offense has taken care of that.

"We'll be able to handle the situation in between, until we know about Clemens and Rivera. I'm still very confident in what we have."

Stottlemyre said the schedule has not given the Yankees any breaks by providing too many off days -- Monday and Thursday.

"Having two days off in a week is ridiculous this time of year, it's damaging and there's no need for it," Stottlemyre said. "It's a little disrupting. One day off is OK but the pitchers need to get in a rhythm. We function better on a full schedule."

Torre said it may take a little while longer until the Yankees once again look like the team that went to the World Series five times in six years.

"It's just a matter of time before we get back in the routine that we have been used to," Torre said. "And I don't mean that in a bragging way. That's just the way our pitchers are. And right now we're scuffling."

If scuffling is being in first place at 64-37 with just more than two months left in the season, chances are a few other teams in baseball would like to scuffle so badly.

"It's nice to be sort of crying with a loaf of bread under your arm," Torre said. "And that's what we're doing now."


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