Mussina L15-7 | 6IP | 8H | 5ER | 0BB | 7K | 4.94ERA
NEW YORK -- Following last Saturday's win over the Seattle Mariners, it looked like Mike Mussina had finally turned the corner. Mussina has struggled through an inconsistent season, failing to put up two solid starts in a row.
Friday was another chapter in Mussina's puzzling season. He didn't pitch badly, allowing eight hits and no walks in six innings, but four of those hits left the ballpark, accounting for five of Texas' six runs in a 6-2 Yankees loss.
"I got [Alex Rodriguez] out three times and I got [Ivan Rodriguez] out three times. It never seemed like I was in trouble, then they'd get into a ball and put a run on the board," Mussina said. "Both times we scored, I let them score again, and it's tough to keep momentum that way."
Rafael Palmeiro smacked two solo shots off Mussina in the second and fourth innings, erasing one-run Yankee leads in both cases. Two batters after Palmeiro's second homer, Herbert Perry added a solo home run of his own, giving Texas a lead it would not relinquish. Carl Everett's two-run shot in the sixth proved to be the cherry on top, as Mussina exited stage right at the end of the inning with New York trailing, 5-2.
Unlike some of Mussina's recent starts, like a three-game stretch in late July and early August in which he gave up 11, 14 and 11 hits, the right-hander felt like he was pitching a good game with the exception of the home runs. One of those starts was against these same Rangers, when Mussina allowed seven runs on 11 hits in his shortest outing of the season.
"This game is more frustrating because I thought I was doing all right," Mussina said. "When you can go through a lineup and not have A-Rod or Pudge beat you up, you think things are going to go all right. It just turned out that it didn't happen today. I can live with three solos because they didn't take us out of the game, but the fourth home run really stung us. That was the one that really put us down."
"It looks like sometimes he tries to overthrow the ball," said manager Joe Torre. "I think it would solve a lot of problems if he would just let the ball come out of his hand. At times he's able to do it, and other times he tries to get a little extra on it and that's when it straightens out and stays up."
Before the game, Torre said that a good indication of Mussina's stuff would be the number of ground-ball outs, noting that when he's on, Mussina induces a lot of grounders.
After Todd Hollandsworth grounded out to Derek Jeter to lead off the game, Mussina got just three more ground-ball outs -- two of which were back to him on the mound.
"The first one of the game, and there weren't many after that," Torre said. "It was basically location, he left a lot of balls up. It wasn't a good outing for him."
"I'd say that any day you don't pitch well, you could say location was the problem," Mussina said. "It was close to being what I had the last time, but it wasn't close enough."
The four home runs marked the most given up by Mussina in his 60 starts as a Yankee. He has given up four home runs three times in his career, and served up five homers on one occasion.
All four longballs came on different pitches, as Palmeiro hit a change-up and a sinker for his two shots, while Perry hit a curveball and Everett connected with a four-seam fastball. Three of the homers came when Mussina was behind in the count.
"He made three bad pitches and he paid for them. That was the game. The first home run was a good pitch, but the other three were the middle of the plate," said catcher Jorge Posada. "He pitched well when he got ahead, but he fell behind a couple of hitters and they locked in on him. When you fall behind, you have to make the perfect pitch. Tonight, he didn't." As frustrated as Mussina was with his performance, he seemed to take some positives out of his latest start.
"I think I made some positive steps," Mussina said. "I was throwing the ball to the corners better, getting ahead in counts and I didn't walk anybody today. In most cases, I wasn't in trouble and then they'd hit a solo homer. Everett's homer, there was a man on first, so it's not like there were runners all over the place."
Torre wasn't ready to give up on Mussina either.
"Sometimes caring too much is a bigger problem. You know what you're doing and what you're not doing, but fixing it is another story," Torre said. "You have to get that good feeling back, and Mike knows what that good feeling feels like. I thought we had it after his start on Saturday, but we'll just have to wait for next time."
Mussina's next scheduled start is on Wednesday at Fenway Park, when he is penciled in to take on Pedro Martinez and the Boston Red Sox.
"He's had too much of a track record to say that he should do something else," Torre said. "You just have to go out there and continue to fight your way through it. Starting pitchers probably suffer through this more than anyone, because they have to wait five days to go back out there."
Check back in five days.
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