As ugly as the Yankees’ 10-5 loss was on Tuesday night, their 3-1 victory yesterday afternoon was just as pretty. Mike Mussina turned in his best start in what has proven to be a surprisingly strong start to the 2006 season, needing just 101 pitches to make it through 7 1/3 innings, allowing one run on seven hits and no walks while striking out seven. As we’ve heard him say several times this spring, he was in complete command of all of his pitches, pounding the strike zone (75 of his 101 pitches were strikes) and breezing through the Blue Jay order. Moose’s ex-teammate Ted Lilly, meanwhile, split the difference between his first two starts, striking out five and holding the Yankees to just two runs through five innings, but walking five and needing 100 pitches (just 57 strikes) to do it.
It was a tense, tightly pitched game through four innings before the Yankees broke through in the top of the fifth when Alex Rodriguez came to bat with one out and hit the first pitch he saw out of the park to give his team a 1-0 lead. After Jason Giambi—who DHed and saw nothing but lefty pitching all day, going 0 for 3 with a K and five men left on base—flew out, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada came through with back-to-back two-out singles to put runners on first and second for Robinson Cano. After falling behind 0-2, Cano smacked a single of his own into left field. Larry Bowa held Matsui at third, but Posada ran right through second base and got trapped in a rundown. Matsui scampered home while Posada tried to dance out of his pickle, but the baserunning gaffe ended the developing Yankee rally.
The Jays got their lone run in the sixth when consecutive one-out singles by Russ Adams, Frank Catalanotto and Vernon Wells fell just beyond the reach of the Yankee outfielders. It was the only inning in which Mussina would allow more than a single baserunner. In his first and only jam of the day, with one run in and men on first and second, Mussina struckout Troy Glaus on three pitches on the lower outside corner and got Lyle Overbay to ground to first base on one more toss to end the inning.
In the next half-inning, a Posada single cashed in a lead-off walk by Rodriguez to restore the Yankees’ two-run lead and end the day’s scoring. Mussina yielded to Kyle Farnsworth after a one-out single by Catalanotto in the eighth, and Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera combined to set down the last five Blue Jays in order. It was the first Yankee win of the season in which the offense scored fewer than nine runs, and it evened their record at 7-7.
That’s it. Nice n’ easy.