Alright, Yankee fans, roll call time. Raise your hand if, in Spring Training, you predicted that Mike Mussina and his eight wins would be leading the Yankees. Put your hand down, you in the back.
As hard as it is to believe, Mike Mussina, 39, is the Yankees’ winningest pitcher. He’s confounding the analysts; he’s beating Father Time; and he’s certainly proving me wrong. By mixing speeds and hitting spots, Mussina is getting the job done.
Tonight, disaster nearly befell early on. Spotted to a 1-0 lead, Mussina came oh so close to falling apart when a Shelley Duncan error — his third of the season in limited duty at first base — lead to a big Minnesota inning. After the first, the Twins had scored four runs, two earned, and Mussina had thrown 36 pitches. Now, usually at this point, I’d write off Mussina, and in a text message to Mike and Joe, I did.
But Mussina, as is his wont this year, proved me wrong. Over the next five innings, Mussina would need just 73 pitches to keep the Twins from scoring again, and his line — 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K — is downright great. The final five innings looks even better: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K. Color me impressed.
(As an aside, it seemed to me on the highlight reel that a lot of the Twins’ base hits in the first were aided by the turf. On grass, some of those balls are outs, no?)
Meanwhile, the Yanks, who left their baserunning shoes at home today, let the bats do the work. Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez and the AL’s leading hitter Hideki Matsui went a combined 9 for 12 and were on base 11 teams. Jose Molina and Melky Cabrera contributed hits as well, and the Yanks were able to plate six runs en route to a victory.
Of course, Kyle Farnsworth looked a bit dicey, and of course, the media is going to harp on this for approximately forever. But Joba’s starting, and the eighth inning is a work in progress.
So the Yankees find themselves with one game left in May, and I feel like this game can set the tenor for the next month. The Yanks are now at .500, and to end the month at one game over would be a huge boost. Meanwhile, Chien-Ming Wang, winless since May 2, could use that very same boost. I’m always wary of watching Wang pitch on turf; his career numbers on turf are not too comforting, and his ERA on turf is 0.90 higher than it is on grass.
But that’s a worry for later. Right now, the Yanks can sleep comfortably with their seventh win in nine games under their belts.