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Royals 6 @ Yankees 2

Tuesday August 6, 2002

Mussina L13-6 | 7IP | 14H | 5ER | 0BB | 3K | 4.90ERA

NEW YORK -- Mike Mussina began his hot streak last season on August 17, when he began a 6-1 run to end the season. The Yankees would love to see a similar stretch for the right-hander, but they'll have to wait until his next start for one to begin.

Mussina struggled for the second consecutive start, allowing five runs over seven innings in a 6-2 loss to the Royals on Tuesday. He fell to 13-6, and his ERA is creeping eerily close to the 5.00 mark, checking in at 4.90.

"I haven't been pitching the way I think I should be pitching," Mussina said. "I'm a little young to be saying I'm losing my stuff. I just haven't been executing what I've been working on. That's the frustrating part, to work hard every day and then get into a ballgame and let another big inning jump up and get me."

The big inning he referred to was the third, when Kansas City put three runs on the board with a two-out rally. At that point, the Royals led 4-0, and with rookie starter Runelvys Hernandez shutting the Yankees down, it was more than enough.

"Everyone swung the bat pretty well and it worked out for us," said Royals first baseman Raul Ibaņez, who had four hits. "I thought Mussina was tough. He keeps you off-balance. It's strange here, sometimes we swing the bats well and then nobody swings the bats well. We don't have an explanation for it."

Unlike his last start in Texas, where Mussina gave up eight runs in just three innings, he pitched deep into Tuesday's game. After his rough third inning, Mussina only gave up one run in the final four frames, but he allowed a career-high 14 hits. He did not walk a batter, striking out three.

"He wanted to stay in there, he threw a lot of pitches tonight, and normally we don't have a pitcher throw that many. He wanted to try to work this thing out," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "It's a struggle, and for a starting pitcher it's very difficult to work things out quickly, because you have to wait four or five days."

"I got to the seventh today," Mussina said. "The last couple of innings, I felt a lot better, like I could throw the ball where I wanted to. At least that's something to take out of this and move on."

Where Mussina was roughed up by seven extra-base hits last week in Texas, he was nickel-and-dimed against the Royals, who had 11 singles in the game.

"It just lets you know that if you get too much of the strike zone, people are going to hit you," Torre said. "Their lineup doesn't scare you like Texas as far as the power, but they put the ball in play. There's something there that isn't working, and we have to figure it out."

"I felt better today, I threw the ball to where I wanted to most of the time," Mussina said. "The Texas game, I wasn't pitching, I was just throwing it in there. Today I made some pitches where I wanted and they still found a couple of holes."

Where does Mussina go from here? He has roughly 10 starts remaining this season, which is plenty of time for him to straighten himself out. His next start will come Sunday against the Oakland A's, the team he shut out in Game 3 of the American League Division Series last October when the Yankees were down 0-2 in the best-of-five series.

"It's something he has to work out. He's been down this road before, and he knows himself better than anyone else knows him," Torre said. "I thought the last few innings were a lot better. He's very sure about what he needs to do, and we'll just have to fight our way through this thing and we'll support him the best we can."

Mussina said he isn't planning on changing any part of his routine between starts this week. He'll continue to watch tape of his games, looking for a clue as to why he has been so inconsistent.

"I really don't know what else to do besides watch what I've done this year, watch what I did last year, go out to the bullpen and work on it," Mussina said. "The unfortunate thing as a pitcher is that I only get one chance. I can't take batting practice for four days or take 500 swings to try to fight through something. It's that one day, you try to focus on it and get something accomplished."


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