Five days ago, Mike Mussina faced the Baltimore Orioles, and his former team shelled him. He allowed six runs in five innings, and the Yanks eventually lost by the score of 13-4. Meanwhile, the Yanks, heading into today, had dropped five out of six and were in danger of seeing their great post-All Star Break gains wiped away.
So when Moose took the mound — fittingly enough on Old Timers’ Day — he was out looking for revenge for both himself and the team. He did not disappoint. Facing a red-hot Angels team, Mussina had a stellar first inning before running into trouble in the second inning when Garret Anderson singled and Howie Kendrick doubled.
With one out and the bases loaded, Mussina induced a ground ball that could have been an inning-ending double play. But a bad throw by Wilson Betemit, filling in for the aching Robinson Cano, allowed an unearned run to score. The Yanks were down 2-0, and things seemed on the verge of getting ugly.
But Moose, the oldest timer on the Yanks, had something else in mind. Over the next 5.1 innings, Mussina would be quite literally perfect. Following Betemit’s error and the unearned run, no other Angel reached base until Jose Veras walked Chone Figgins in the 8th inning of what was then an 8-2 game.
For the Yanks, it was the second straight strong pitching performance, and this time, the offense — behind four home runs by Betemit, the hot Bobby Abreu, Jose Molina and A-Rod — scored enough runs to back it up. The Yanks teed off against Jered Weaver and managed an important win as both Boston and Tampa Bay won.
Tonight’s game provided a second straight day of relief for the Yanks. While they lost a heartbreaker on Friday night, Sidney Ponson had by far his best start of the season, allowing no runs in seven innings. Prior to these two outings, the Yanks’ pitchers had put together an 8.80 ERA over their last 44 innings. With this win, the Yanks maintained the 2.5 games separating them from the Sox, and they needed this win. Later today, the Yanks and Darrell Rasner will face John Lackey who, in his last outing, no-hit the Red Sox in Fenway for over eight innings. That won’t be a walk in the park.