The New York Yankees couldn’t solve the Toronto Blue Jays’ ace pitcher in the series opener. Now New York turns to Mike Mussina, who has been one of its most reliable pitchers following a Yankee loss this season.
Mussina looks to get the Yankees back on track again when the teams resume a three-game series at SkyDome after a day off.
The Yankees came into Toronto on Monday following a series win over the archrival Boston Red Sox over the weekend, but the Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay easily stopped their momentum with an 8-1 victory. The right-hander allowed one run and tied a season high with 10 strikeouts for his fifth complete game of the year, tying Chicago’s Esteban Loaiza for the AL lead in victories with 18.
“That’s as probably as good as I’ve seen him,” New York’s Bernie Williams said. “He was tough. He threw a lot of strikes. He had good movement.”
Not to mention a lot of motivation.
“It’s always nice to beat them,” Halladay said of the first-place Yankees. “They are one of the best teams in baseball. To go out and play them well is important for us. This is the last time we see them this year. We want to leave them with something to think about.”
The Yankees are hoping Mussina can help them put that memory behind them. Seven of the right-hander’s 15 wins this season have followed a New York loss, including Thursday’s 7-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox, when he allowed three runs in six innings. The Yankees had been outscored 24-4 in losing the first two games of that series.
The Yankees will be happy to see right-hander Kelvim Escobar on the mound instead of Halladay on Wednesday. Escobar has had his problems against New York in 2003, going 1-1 with an 11.88 ERA in four games, including two starts.
The teams conclude the series Thursday night, then meet against next Monday at Yankee Stadium in a makeup game, their final matchup of the season.
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Blue Jays - 3rd place, 15 1/2 GB, AL East.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Mussina (15-7, 3.22 ERA). The right-hander is 4-1 with a 3.02 ERA in his last five starts, pitching at least six innings in each game and lasting at least eight innings in three of the outings. Mussina is 2-2 with a 4.00 ERA in five starts against Toronto this season, and 16-9 with a 3.08 ERA in 30 career starts against the Blue Jays.
BLUE JAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Escobar (10-8, 4.31 ERA). The right-hander is coming off a strong outing after struggling in the previous two starts. He allowed three runs and four hits in eight innings of Friday’s 7-3 victory at Cleveland.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Yankees - Derek Jeter, .322 avg.; Jason Giambi, 35 HRs and 94 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 95 runs and 30 SBs. Blue Jays - Vernon Wells, .314 avg.; Carlos Delgado, 34 HRs, 123 RBIs and 103 runs; Bobby Kielty and Eric Hinske, 6 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 8-8.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - 1B Giambi is in an 0-for-24 slump, the longest hitless stretch of his career, but is 9-for-21 (.429) with two HRs and four doubles lifetime against RHP Escobar. … INF Luis Sojo came out of retirement and was activated Monday by the Yankees, who wanted to add him to the roster as insurance after SS Jeter suffered a slight muscle strain in his ribcage. Jeter is expected to miss the Toronto series. … OF Karim Garcia, who missed the last two games while attending the funeral of an aunt, is expected back for Wednesday’s game. Blue Jays - C Phelps has three homers in his last four games after his three-run shot in Monday’s win. He has hit safely in seven straight games, batting .500 in that span (12-for-24). … 3B Hinske’s last eight hits have been doubles. He has 40 doubles this season. … OF Frank Catalanotto is 15-for-35 (.429) with two HRs and five doubles lifetime against RHP Mussina.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 44-25 on the road; Blue Jays - 30-36 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - SS Jeter (ribs), day-to-day; OF David Dellucci (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Blue Jays - LHP Doug Creek (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Bob File (shoulder), 60-day DL.