Of all the Yankee fans I talk to, only one predicted a huge contribution from Mike Mussina this season. Nine wins on the season, no matter what he does the rest of the way, constitutes a huge contribution in my book, so it's time to give some credit to commenter Alex K.
Tonight's 5-1 win over the Blue Jays might have been Robo-Moose's best outing of the season. He threw 103 pitches over 6 innings, struck out 6, walked 1, and held the Blue Jays to only 1 run on 5 hits. It was a mesmerizing performance, and as good as the first 5 innings were, the 6th inning truly illustrates the new Mussina we've seen this year.
Home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor had a liberal strike zone all night long, and Moose took advantage. Then, in the sixth, Bucknor decided to stop giving Moose the corners. The first two batters were retired on a ground out and a strike out, then Alex Rios walked after a close pitch that would've ended the inning was called a ball. Mussina collected himself and then faced Scott Rolen with a man on. Two pitches which Bucknor had been calling strikes all night long were called balls. Two pitches that would've struck Rolen out. On the 3-2 pitch, Moose caught too much of the plate and Rolen hit a double off the wall. Now, the old Moose, the unemotional humanoid we've seen over the past couple of years, would've imploded at that point. He would've coughed up what was a 3-1 lead at the time. The new Moose shook it off, went right back to work and retired Matt Stairs on a grounder to end the threat and the inning.
Two key plays on offense, the first came from the Melk Man in the bottom of the fourth. With the Yanks leading 2-0, Melky came up with Cano on second and Molina on first and two out. He stroked a single to right to score Cano and push the lead to 3-0. Two-out, RBI hits were few and far between for the Bombers for a large part of the season, and it seemed to me like every media outlet and blog was bemoaning the Yanks' lack of clutch hits, so I think it's only fair that we point out when guys come through in those situations. Which brings me to the second key play, in the bottom of the sixth, after the Blue Jays had cut the lead to 3-1, Johnny Damon came up with two outs and Jose Molina on third. Damon found the hole between first and second to plate the run and give the Yanks a 4-1 lead. Not only was this a two-out, RBI hit, but it provided an answer to the Blue Jays only run and swung the momentum back to the Yanks as the much-maligned bullpen was set to enter the game.
Mariano is simply amazing. 14 pitches, 2 K's in his one inning of work in a non-save situation. Has anyone else noticed that Michael Kay seems to have a boner for certain Yankees (Mo and Jeter) and really seems to dislike others (Cano and Farnsworth)?
Player of The Game: Moooooooooose
Team Record: 29-30