The crafty right-hander is coming off one of his best performances of the season, scattering four hits over eight innings in Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the Kansas City Royals. He struck out five but walked four
Mussina, who retired 12 of the final 13 he faced, said he had as many as six or seven pitches working for him.
“I can’t tell you for sure,” he said. “Some days I’ve got five or six and some days I’m thinking up more than that. It just depends on what’s necessary.
“I thought I had pretty good life on my fastball. I threw some slow curves in there. But the splitter was useful again.”
Mussina, who has a 2.98 ERA over his last four outings, has three winning streaks of at least three games this season.
He opened the season 7-0 with a stingy 1.70 ERA, but followed it up with a four-game skid. He then won three straight from June 10-28 and then lost two in a row before embarking on his current trend.
“Mussina can dominate,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “When he can throw strike one, he’s so tough to hit because he has a lot of different ways he can go.”
The Yankees won their third straight with Saturday’s wild 5-4, 12-inning victory over the Orioles. Backup catcher John Flaherty hit two home runs, and Jason Giambi hit a solo homer with two outs in the top of the 12th for the Yankees, who have a four-game lead over second-place Boston in the AL East.
The Orioles, who have lost a season high-tying six straight, were on the brink of tying the game in the bottom of the 12th.
Jack Cust was in the midst of a rundown between third and home with two outs in the inning when he suddenly realized there was no one covering the plate.
All Cust had to do was outrun Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone the final 10 feet to tie the game. But the rookie, who had tripped rounding third base, tripped again and was tagged by Boone for the final out of the game.
“He had a free trip to home, and he tripped and fell,” Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. “Those things happen.”
“It was bizarre, certainly,” Boone said.
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Orioles - 4th place, 17 1/2 GB, AL East.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Mussina (13-6, 3.19 ERA). Mussina, who spent his first 10 seasons with the Orioles, is 5-2 with a 3.97 ERA and one shutout in eight career starts against Baltimore.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Rodrigo Lopez (5-7, 5.62 ERA). Lopez is 2-1 with a 3.96 ERA over his last three starts, including Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay. The right-hander allowed three runs and eight hits over six innings, striking out four and walking one. Lopez is 1-0 with a 5.93 ERA in three career appearances against the Yankees, including two starts.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Yankees - Derek Jeter, .318 avg.; Giambi, 35 HRs and 93 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 85 runs and 28 SBs. Orioles - Jay Gibbons, .297 avg. and 83 RBIs; Tony Batista, 21 HRs; Jeff Conine, 69 runs; Brian Roberts, 18 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Yankees, 5-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - 2B Soriano went 0-for-6 Saturday and is just 2-for-17 in the series. … OF Bernie Williams is hitting .444 (12-for-27) over his last seven games with one homer and seven RBIs and seven runs scored. … The Yankees’ bullpen, which improved to 16-15 Saturday, has not had a losing season since 1971 (17-19), the longest streak in ML history. Orioles - Five of Baltimore’s losses during the six-game losing streak have been by one or two runs, and the Orioles held the lead in all but one of the games. … The Orioles’ bullpen is 0-5 with a 7.29 ERA over its last six games … 1B Conine missed an eighth straight game with bursitis in his right arm. The Orioles will decide early next week whether to place him on the DL.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 41-23 on the road; Orioles - 31-30 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - RHP Jose Contreras (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Gabe White (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Orioles - 1B-OF Conine (arm), day-to-day; 1B David Segui (wrist), 15-day DL; OF Mora (hand), 15-day DL; RHP Kurt Ainsworth (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Omar Daal (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Willis Roberts (knee), 60-day DL; INF Jerry Hairston Jr. (foot), 60-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL.