Mike Mussina finally reached the magic 20 win mark in a season, as the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox, 6-2, in the first game of a day/night doubleheader at Fenway Park.
After winning the first game of this three game series against the Sox, 19-8, on Friday, Saturday’s game was rained out. This resulted in the scheduled doubleheader on Sunday, the final day of the regular season. The rain also threatened to cancel these two games, but the on and off rainy day was clear enough to play, thankfully for Mussina. If these games were rained-out, they would not have been made up, because they would not have affected the final standings.
Mussina (20-9) threw only 73 pitches, over six solid shutout innings, allowing three hits, and two walks, while striking out three, and lowering his ERA to 3.37.
This victory was Mussina’s 270th career win, tying him with Burleigh Grimes, for 33th on the all-time wins list. Also, Mussina, 39, became the oldest pitcher to get his first 20-win season this late in his career.
Xavier Nady provided the Yankees with all the runs they would need, by hitting a three-run homer, off Boston starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3), in the top of the 4th inning.
With the 3-0 lead, Mussina got into his only trouble of the game in the bottom of the 4th, when Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz started off the inning by hitting back to back singles. But, Mussina got Kevin Youkilis to fly out to centerfield for the first out of the inning; and, then, J.D. Drew grounded into a double play, to end the inning without any further damage.
Mike Mussina’s start was finished after six innings; now it was up to the Yankees bullpen to hold the lead, and preserve Moose’s 20th win.
Phil Coke pitched a scoreless 7th inning, and was replaced by Joba Chamberlain in the 8th. Joba only faced two batters, though, allowing a lead-off walk, and then a double, bringing the tying run to the plate. At this point, Joe Girardi decided to make another pitching change, and brought Brian Bruney into the game.
Bruney allowed one run to score; and, was replaced by Damaso Marte, who allowed another run to score, cutting the Yankes lead to 3-2.
There were now two outs in the 8th, and Girardi made the call to Mariano Rivera to get the final four outs of the game. Rivera ended the rally by striking-out Dustin Pedroia on three straight pitches, the last one a swinging strike-three.
As it started to rain again, the Yankees scored three more insurance runs in the top of the 9th, off Boston closer, Jonathan Papelbon.
Robinson Cano (3-for-4) led off the inning with a single. Cody Ransom then grounded a perfect hit and run ball up the middle, setting up a first and third situation, with no outs. Jose Molina was up next, and hit a RBI sac fly to rightfield, driving home Cano for a 4-2 lead.
Brett Gardner then singled; and, Johnny Damon walked, to load the bases with Melky Cabrera coming up to the plate. Melky hit a RBI fielders choice grounder to third, that increased the Yanks lead to 5-2.
Alex Rodriguez was up next, with runners on second and third, and two outs. A-Rod completed the scoring by hitting a RBI single, for the 6-2 Yankees lead.
Papelbon struck-out Miranda for the final out of the inning. But, for Papelbon, this was the first time in his career that he ever gave up more than two runs in an appearance. So, as they say, you always see something you never seen before in each game. Well, today, it was the first time Papelbon gave up at least three runs in a game.
The “Great” Mariano closed out the Yankees 6-2 victory, and Mike Mussina’s 20th win of the season, by pitching a scoreless 9th inning, recording his 39th save.
Congratulations to Mike Mussina, for his outstanding 20-9 season !!!