Mussina L16-8 | 6.2IP | 7H | 4ER | 6BB | 7K | 4.71ERA
NEW YORK -- One year ago to the day, Mike Mussina baffled the Red Sox with a one-hit shutout, coming within a single strike of a perfect game. Last Wednesday, Mussina twirled another gem, shutting out Boston on a three-hitter.
Monday, Mussina labored through 6 2/3 innings over the span of over four hours, surviving an 89-minute rain delay in the process. The results, however, were less than he and the Yankees had hoped for, as Boston handed New York an 8-4 defeat.
"It was fair, at best," said Mussina of his performance. "I made some good pitches, got in trouble with some walks. I really didn't throw the ball bad, they just put some hits together in one inning. That's how games are played sometimes."
The game began under a steady rain, as the teams played in front of a soggy crowd of 55,169. Mussina was originally told that the start of the game would be delayed for an hour or two, but at about noon, he was informed that the 1:05 start time was back on.
"I was wondering why we started the game, to be honest with you," Mussina said. "It was difficult to pitch. It was raining from the time I went out to warm up. It wasn't easy."
The Yankees gave the right-hander a 2-0 lead in the first, but Boston bounced back in the third with a three-run inning. Mussina walked Trot Nixon to lead off the inning, one of six free passes he issued on the day. After Rey Sanchez bunted Nixon to second, Mussina walked Johnny Damon.
Shea Hillenbrand singled home Nixon, and Nomar Garciaparra followed that with a two-run single to put the Sox ahead, 3-2.
Throughout the contest, Mussina made some pitches that he thought were strikes, only to have home-plate umpire Mike Winters call them for balls. Manager Joe Torre said he thought the strike zone was "deceptive," but Mussina took it one step farther after the game.
"I thought it was non-existent. At least as long as I was out there," Mussina said. "When you're trying to get strike one or get back into a count, you throw a pretty good pitch and it's not called, you're stuck. You have to keep fighting and see what you can come up with. The strike zone wasn't working for me today."
It showed, as the six walks tied a career high. It was the fourth time Mussina has issued six walks, the first since June 20, 1997 against Toronto.
"I think he didn't know exactly where the strike zone was today. I thought his command was as good as last time," Torre said. "I thought he pitched well and had pretty good command. I don't think the walk total was indicative of the way he threw. I was comfortable watching him pitch, unlike those few starts a few starts ago."
The game was halted because of rain in the top of the sixth, as Boston had two runners on with two outs. The delay lasted 1:29, which would normally be too much time for a starter with 94 pitches under his belt to return. But Mussina asked Torre to let him go back out there, and Torre allowed him to warm up, with Ramiro Mendoza loosening up as well.
"It was a pretty long break, but I didn't feel that much different," Mussina said. "I told them I wanted to go back out after the delay. I wanted to try to get through that inning and maybe get another. I felt OK, and if he was really heart-set against it, he wouldn't have let me go out."
Mussina walked Doug Mirabelli to load the bases, but got Nixon to ground out to end the inning. He came out for the seventh, but didn't finish the inning, allowing a run on two hits and a walk. He finished the game allowing four runs over 6 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and six walks. He struck out seven.
After his gem at Fenway, Mussina said that he hoped to be able to build on it as the Yankees enter the season's final month. Monday's start wasn't exactly what he was looking for, though he said that his performance wasn't going to keep him up at night.
"I felt pretty good, threw the ball OK. I walked more people than I usually do, but I don't know if I got hurt by more than one of them," Mussina said. "I'll just go out and pitch the next one. It will be my turn to pitch again in five days, so I'll be ready to pitch. I can't change what happened today, so I'm not going to sit around thinking about it."
After sweeping two games at Fenway last week, the Yankees have dropped four of five. New York's lead in the AL East now stands at 6 1/2 games over Boston, as the Yankees have lost three in a row for the first time since May 22-24.
"We lost three in a row, and we haven't done that in a while," Torre said. "When you don't win on a regular basis, there's a little something you have to work at to get better."
Said Mussina: "We haven't played very well since we left Boston. We have some guys hurt, some guys are beat up. We have to find ways to win ballgames, and for the last five days we haven't done a very good job of that."
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