The veteran right-hander may also have to deal with the effects of Hurricane Isabel as he searches for the milestone in the finale of the New York Yankees’ four-game series with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
The game, originally set for 7:05 p.m., was moved up 6 1/2 hours to avoid the worst of Hurricane Isabel, which is expected to slam into the coast of North Carolina early Thursday.
Mussina, the Yankees’ union representative, said the Major League Baseball Players’ Association didn’t have any input in the time change. He then questioned the logic of attempting to start a game when conditions are expected to include high winds and heavy rains.
“Even if we play this game, can we safely get out of here on an airplane?” Mussina said of the Yankees’ plans to travel to Tampa, Fla., after the game for their three-game set against the Devil Rays.
Yankees manager Joe Torre agreed, saying he would prefer scrapping Thursday’s game and making it up when the Orioles visit Yankee Stadium next Friday for the final series of the season.
“I don’t know what the right thing to do is. I really don’t,” Torre said. “If it was my choice, I’d get out of here and play it as a home game.”
Mussina won 147 games during 10 years with the Orioles before signing with the Yankees prior to the 2001 season. He is on the brink of the milestone after averaging 17.3 victories in his first three seasons with New York.
“There’s probably some irony to it,” Mussina said of going for the milestone against his former team. “It was going to happen somewhere, so it might as well be here.”
The Orioles, however, already denied one Yankee hurler from winning his 200th game in this series. Larry Bigbie and Jay Gibbons homered, as Baltimore scored all its runs in the first two innings in Thursday’s 5-3 win to stop David Wells from reaching the milestone.
Despite the win, the Orioles have dropped six of eight.
Juan Rivera homered for New York, which maintained its 5 1/2 -game lead over Boston in the AL East after the Red Sox lost 7-0 to the Devil Rays. The Yankees, whose magic number to clinch the division was reduced to six, have won 10 of 12.
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Orioles - 4th place, 25 1/2 GB, AL East.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Mussina (17-7, 3.17 ERA). Mussina improved to 6-1 with a 2.94 ERA over his last eight starts with Saturday’s 6-3 win over Tampa Bay. He allowed two runs—one earned—and six hits over seven innings. He is 6-3 with a 3.74 ERA and two shutouts in 10 career starts against Baltimore.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Pat Hentgen (6-8, 4.17 ERA). Hentgen is 1-1 with a 2.43 ERA over his last three starts. The veteran right-hander was reached for six runs—five earned—and five hits over 6 2-3 innings on Saturday in a 6-1 loss to Toronto. Hentgen is 7-11 with a 5.58 ERA and one shutout in 24 career appearances, including 21 starts, against the Yankees.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Yankees - Derek Jeter, .323 avg.; Jason Giambi, 39 HRs; Hideki Matsui, 104 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 106 runs and 33 SBs. Orioles - Gibbons, .277 avg., 97 RBIs and 76 runs; Tony Batista, 25 HRs; Brian Roberts, 22 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Yankees, 10-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - RHP Mussina is 76-40 with a 3.55 ERA in his career at Camden Yards. … SS Jeter is hitting .412 in 17 career at-bats against RHP Hentgen with a double, triple and an RBI. … New York has hit eight homers in its last three games, and 212 for the season. Orioles - OF Gibbons is hitting .389 in 18 career at-bats against RHP Mussina with two doubles, one homer and one RBI. … Baltimore has outscored the opposition 169-127 in the first two innings this season. … OF Bigbie extended his career-high hitting streak to nine games and is batting .426 (23-for-54) over his last 14 games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 47-27 on the road; Orioles - 39-38 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - OF David Dellucci (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Orioles - RHP Kurt Ainsworth (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Willis Roberts (elbow), 60-day DL; 1B-DH David Segui (wrist), 60-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL.