On August 11, 2007, the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Devil Rays played a rather meaningless game in the scheme of the season. Both teams were far out of the playoff hunt, wrapping up the formality of a 162-game season. In that game, Edwin Jackson would throw a four-hit shut out. It would be the last time the Rangers would get shut out at home until last night.
Three hundred and sixty two days later, someone else finally shut out the Rangers in Arlington. As the team has scored a Major League-leading 651, this is, clearly, no small feat, and tonight, the superlatives fall on the shoulders of Mike Mussina, the Yanks’ first 15-game winner. Over seven innings, Mussina scattered eight hits — only two for extra bases. He struck out six and walked just one. He’s now allowed 20 walks in 24 starts. Not only is Mussina chasing 20 wins yet again, but he may well finish the season with fewer walks than starts.
Moose, ever humble and sporting a nifty 3.27 ERA, would have none of the praise. “I didn’t have my best stuff,” he said after the game. Of course not. Who shuts down the Rangers at home with their best stuff? And for all the grief I’ve given Moose over the years, I have to tip my cap to him this year. He has shown, week after week, that old dogs — headstrong ones at that — can indeed learn a few new tricks.
Meanwhile, after a hiccup earlier this week, the bullpen was again strong for the Yanks. Brian Bruney got his out; Damaso Marte got his two outs; and Mariano Rivera needed a whopping eight pitches to dispatch the Rangers in the ninth. Game, set, match.
For the Yankees, the offense came to them courtesy of Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon. The three combined for eight of the Yanks’ 11 hits. Jeter’s home run in the first and his single in the 9th plated two of the runs, and Damon’s fifth inning single plated the other.
Of note was the odd non-double play in the ninth. With Wilson Betemit on first, Jose Molina hit a sure DP ball to Ian Kinsler. But the Rangers’ second baseman threw to first, and Wilson Betemit, either alert or too oblivious, scampered back to the bag, safe. He would later score on Jeter’s single. I’ve never quite seen a play unfold as that one did.
As the Yanks head to Anaheim tonight, they do so 5.5 games out of first following a rare Tampa loss and three games behind Boston in the Wild Card. They have Ian Kennedy and Dan Giese lined up to start the first two games. Beyond that, who knows? But that’s the maddening joy of baseball. Anything is possible, and while the Yanks are down, they’re aren’t out yet.
Game A-Rod Slump Notes: Alex Rodriguez had a series to forget. He went 0 for 14 and hit into four double plays. Prior to this week, he had hit into four double plays all season. Hopefully, he’ll heat up in Anaheim. He is a career .332/.399/.678 hitter in 352 plate appearances at the Big A…When A-Rod struck out with Derek Jeter on third and one out in the seventh, it was his 35th at-bat with a runner on third and less than two outs. He is now 7 for 29 in those situations, and the runner has scored in 13 of 35 situations. Those are bad numbers, albeit in a small sample.