The biggest story of the season thus far for the Yankees has to be the resurgence of Mike Mussina, who has found the fountain of youth in the form of a 70-mile-per-hour changeup. Moose did it again last night, stymieing the Devil Ray’s B-squad for six innings, holding them to four hits in six innings while walking none and striking out seven. Only a first-inning Jonny Gomes homer (his league-leading tenth) managed to spoil Moose’s evening.
Fireballer Scott Kazmir, meanwhile, was unable to uphold his end of the bargain, walking Johnny Damon on four pitches to start the evening and then surrendering a two-run homer to Derek Jeter to hand over the lead before he had recorded a single out. By the time the first inning ended on a broken-bat grounder by Andy Phillips, who didn’t strike out once in his rematch with Kazmir, the Yanks had a 3-1 lead and were off to the races.
In the fourth, Phillips delivered a one-out opposite-field single and came around to score. In the sixth, Tampa manager Joe Maddon replaced Kazmir, who walked five and threw 101 pitches in his five innings of work, with Scott Dunn and watched as Dunn and subsequent reliever Ruddy Lugo doubled the Yankee run total to make it 8-1. In the eighth, the Yanks plated a lead-off double by Jeter–who was 3 for 5 with a double, a homer, three runs scored and three driven in on the night–to push the eventual final score to 9-1. Sturtze, Villone and Proctor mopped up for Moose, allowing just one baserunner across three innings (a single off Villone).
Other highlights included Miguel Cairo going 2 for 3 with a pair of doubles and a walk (though he did get picked off second following the first double). Not bad for his first start since April 12. Jason Giambi, meanwhile, went 2 for 3 with a double, a walk and three RBIs from the DH spot giving him a two-day DH line of 7 AB, 3 R, 5 H, 8 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR, 1 BB, 0 K. Hmmm, maybe he can hit in that role after all.
Finally, making his fourth start in five games at first base, Andy Phillips made a pair of nice plays in the field and is starting to look more comfortable at the plate. Phillips has singling in each of the last two games, worked a full count with the bases loaded in his third at-bat last night (though that AB ended in another broken bat groundout), and drove a ball to deep center in his final trip. He’s also struck out just twice in his last 11 plate appearances. These are small signs of what I hope will be greater things to come. Hopefully Phillips will start again on Thursday against lefty Mark Hendrickson.