Mike Mussina was near perfect in the Yankees 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins, at the Stadium, in the beautiful Bronx, yesterday afternoon. Moose tossed 8 shutout innings; and, throughout the game looked as if he was conducting a pitching clinic, center-stage, on the Yankee Stadium mound, to the delight of the sold-out crowd, and all who watched this awesome performance.
Mussina was like an artist on the mound, mixing up pitches and changing speeds, using the 105 pitches he threw as if they were strokes of a paint brush. When finished, a beautiful masterpiece of eight “goose-eggs” were displayed on the scoreboard. He allowed the Twins only six hits, while walking none [for the third straight game], and striking out seven. Mike Mussina is now 13-6, and well on his way to his first 20-win season.
The numbers this year are staggering for the possible future Hall of Famer.
Over Mussina’s last five starts, he has pitched 32 innings; allowing only 5 runs; 3 walks; 33 hits; while striking-out 31 batters. In these five games, Mike Mussina is 3-1, with a 1.41 ERA.
Overall, Mussina is 12-3 over his last 17 starts; and, this was not only his third straight game without allowing a walk, but, also, the ninth time this season he has not allowed a walk in a game.
Mike Mussina has allowed only 16 walks in 121 1/3 innings pitched this season. As reported in the NY Post, [July 24, 2008], by Mike Vaccaro, only one other pitcher since 1919, Bret Saberhagen, has recorded more wins in a season than walks allowed, while winning a minimum of 10 games. Mussina may not join Saberhagen as part of that unbelievable stat, but with 263 career wins [and counting], this great season by Mussina will surely renew the debate about whether or not he should be considered for selection into baseball’s Hall of Fame when his playing days are over.
Seven more victories in 2008 will bring Mussina to 270 career wins. The closer he gets to 300 career wins, the better Mussina’s chances of making it into the Hall of Fame. Mussina will need at least two more years on the mound to approach the magic number of 300 wins. In my view, that will be Mussina’s ticket into the Hall of Fame. Certaintly, a 20-win season, and at least “one” World Series ring will also move the debate in favor of Mike Mussina being honored with a plaque in Cooperstown, NY.
If Manager, Joe Girardi, had a vote on selection of Mike Mussina into the Hall of Fame, I think this year would be a big factor on how Girardi would vote.
After the game, Girardi said, “Without Moose, I don’t know where we would be. Every start he seems to get better and better. When he uses all his pitches, he’s really hard to beat. He [Mussina] is really something [special] to see”.
When asked if Mike Mussina is the Yankees MVP this season, Girardi said, “you could make an awfully good case for that”.
Over the first four innings, though, it didn’t look like Mike Mussina would get a decision in this game. Twins starter, Glen Perkins (7-3) was matching Mussina pitch for pitch, until the bottom of the 5th, when a mental error by Twins second baseman, Alexis Casilla, allowed the inning to continue when he thought there were three outs after a force play at second base. The force was only the second out of the inning, and it would have been an easy double play, if Casilla only threw the ball to first, to double up “slow running” Jose Molina, for the final out of the 5th.
Perkins was visibly upset at Casilla, and now with runners on first and third, Justin Christian was up at the plate. Christian stroked a beautiful double down the left field line that scored both Cano and Molina, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
The Yankees scored three more runs in the bottom of the 6th, when Derek Jeter led off the inning with a double; Bobby Abreu walked; and both were driven home by a two-RBI double by Alex Rodriguez, who advanced to third on the throw to the plate. A-Rod scored the final Yankees run on a sac fly by Richie Sexson.
Glen Perkins finished the inning without any more damage, and his day was complete, giving up 5 runs [all earned, as a mental error does not go up on the scoreboard – as an error], 8 hits, one walk, and striking out two, in his six innings of work.
Mike Mussina continued to paint his masterpiece, and as he walked off the mound after getting the final out of the 8th, the only question remaining was if Joe Girardi would allow Moose to complete the 5-0 shutout.
Mussina has 23 career shutouts, including eight with the Yankees. He last pitched a shutout in 2005, when he actually had “two” that season. Also, Mussina’s last complete game was in 2006. So, after throwing 105 pitches in 8 innings – would Joe Girardi send Moose to the mound in the 9th to finish the masterpiece, and title it “Mike Mussina’s 24th Career Shutout”?
Well, maybe Girardi would vote for Mussina to enter the Hall of Fame, but he was not going to let him pitch the 9th in this game. Too bad, because going for the shutout would have really excited the crowd, as they would have witnessed two rare events in baseball today: a “COMPLETE GAME”, and a “SHUTOUT” !!!
Mussina said he understood; also, adding, “A shutout isn’t important anymore. To try for a shutout after throwing 105 pitches, it could stretch to 118 or 120 pitches; then, you compromise the next start”.
Maybe so! But, if under the same circumstances, Mussina was pitching a “no-hitter” – would Girardi have let him pitch the 9th to complete the game, and record the no-hitter? I think the answer to that question would be a very big YES !!!
It is very sad to think that we have reached an era in baseball that a “complete game” and “shutout” are just not important aymore. It would have been fun to watch the Stadium crowd cheer every pitch, strike, and out, that Mussina would have recorded in the 9th inning of yesterday’s game. But, I guess the “win” is the really the most important thing, and for now, we will all have to live with “the dreaded pitch-count”, and “over-use of the bullpen” [at times – way too many times] !!!
As it turned out, LaTroy Hawkins replaced Mussina in the 9th, and gave up a “RUN” [that broke up the shutout], on three hits, and a wild pitch, while retirng only two batters, including one on a strikeout.
Then, in a game that Mariano Rivera should not had to make an appearance, Rivera closed out the 5-1 victory, striking out the only batter he faced, for his 25th save of the season.
This was an awesome pitching performance by Mike Mussina, and a great win by the Yankees, as they get ready for the big showdown at Fenway Park this weekend against the Boston Red Sox.
Six straight wins, sweeping both three-game series’ since the All-Star game, moved the Yankees right back into the mix for first place in the AL EAST.
The New York Yankees vs. The Boston Red Sox … It doesn’t get any better than that !!!
“A Season Within A Season” – Playoff Baseball – In July !!!
I can’t wait !!! Go Yankees !!!