As the Yanks enjoy a day off prior to a trip up to America’s Hat, I’m sure more than a few of them are thinking, “Why can’t we do that everyday?”
Today’s final — a 15-6 drubbing of the Royals — belies the early-inning struggles. Before Johnny Damon had a chance to step up to the plate, Mike Mussina had given up three runs, and it seemed like it was going to be one of those one-and-done starts for Moose. But, as he’s done a few times this season, Mussina bore down. He can taste 20 wins, and he knew he’d have to stop the bleeding early on to give the Yankee bats a chance to get back in it.
Well, the Yankee bats — missing for much of the season — weren’t about to let him down. The lineup turned over in the bottom of the first, and before Brian Bannister could catch his breath, the Yanks — behind a three-run home run from A-Rod and yet another blast by Xavier Nady — were up 6-3. Mussina pitched into and out of trouble in the second, and the Yanks went back to work.
Single. Walk. Walk. Grand Slam. There goes Bannister with a line of 1 IP and 10 ER. Bannister’s ERA went up by 0.60 runs today, and on August 17, that’s a tough act to accomplish.
The rest of the game would play out fairly painlessly. After that first inning, Mussina would give up no more runs and just two hits in the second. He’s now, unbelievably, 16-7 on the season and could, if the Yanks keep him on regular rest despite off days, have nine shots to win four games. Twenty is well within reach.
Offensively, the Yanks really needed a day like today. Derek Jeter went 4 for 4 to push his average up to .295. It’s the closest he’s been to .300 since May 22. A-Rod, 3 for 3, reached base all five times up and drove in five. His game-tying three-run home run in the 1st came amidst a renewed attention to his struggles this year with runners in scoring position. Brett Gardner went 2 for 5 and is now 5 for 14 since replacing Melky Cabrera in center field.
Up in Boston, the Red Sox were creamed by the Blue Jays, and commentators are wondering if Josh Beckett is injured. That Wild Card deficit is down to five games, and the Yanks are beginning to instill hope and faith in their supporters. We’ll find out soon whether this is just another round of false hope or if the Yanks are going to mount an improbable run. Here’s to hoping for the latter.