…and we’re just living in it.
Perhaps Mike Mussina, 39, sold his soul to the devil. Perhaps he has been replaced with Bizarro Mike Mussina. Perhaps he’s simply learned to be a better pitcher, proving the exception to the rule stating you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. No matter what, it’s become a pleasure to watch Mike Mussina — the AL leader in wins — work this year.
Now, I’ll be honest with you: Every time Mussina struggles in the first inning, I always think, “Well, that goes that Cinderella story.” When I turned off the game to go out to dinner after the top of the second, I figured we were in for a slugfest. Imagine my surprise to find that Mike Mussina was nearly flawless after that first inning.
The Yanks quickly fell behind tonight, 3-0, on a mammoth home run by Carlos Lee. Mussina looked vulnerable, but the Yanks’ bats quickly plated two to close the gap while the new Mike Mussina went to work. Over the next five innings, Mussina would allow three hits and no runs while walking no one and striking out four. The Yanks would plate eight runs and move three games above .500 for the first time all season. Believe it or not, the Yanks are now third in the Wild Card race.
While the bats went to work — with contributions from Melky Cabrera, Jose Molina and Wilson Betemit, not the most likely cast of characters — the story was Mussina. Moose hasn’t walked a batter in his last 14 innings, and he’s now won 10 games for the 17th time in his 18-year career. That is no small feat.
On the season, Mussina has thrown 81.1 innings, and he’s 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA. He’s struck out 46 while walking just 11, and he’s doing a masterful job of keeping runners off base. Tonight, he struggled in the first inning, a common theme this year. In fact, if you remove his 15 first innings this year — covering 14.2 innings — Mussina has a 3.51 ERA in 66.2 innings. This is vintage Mike Mussina with a different style, and it’s truly great. Enjoy the ride.