New York Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina needed five tries to record his 200th win. The way teammate Kevin Brown has been pitching against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he may need only one shot at the milestone.
Forced to wait an extra day due to rain, Brown tries to become the second consecutive Yankees pitcher to earn his 200th career victory when he makes his third start of the season—all against the Devil Rays.
The veteran right-hander was scheduled to start Tuesday but the opener of the scheduled two-game set was rained out and Brown’s outing was pushed back a day.
An 18-year veteran, Brown had never faced the Rays before being traded to New York from Los Angeles during the offseason. The 39-year-old right-hander, 199-131 lifetime, probably wishes he had pitched against them earlier in his career.
Brown has dominated Tampa Bay in two starts, pitching seven innings each time and posting a 1.29 ERA to win both contests. He will be looking to beat the Rays in a third stadium, having defeated them 12-1 on March 31 in Japan’s Tokyo Dome and 3-2 on Wednesday at Tropicana Field.
This time, the Yankees won’t be counting on Brown to prevent a losing streak. New York dropped the first game of the two-game season-opening series in Japan, and fell 9-4 last Tuesday before Brown’s second start.
Brown’s dominant pitching has been crucial for the Yankees during the early going because projected ace Mike Mussina struggled in his first two starts, losing both. Mussina continued to have problems Sunday against the Chicago White Sox, but pitched 6 1-3 innings to finally earn the elusive 200th win, 5-4.
Mussina gave up three runs in the first inning, but backup outfielder Bubba Crosby hit a three-run home run in the fourth, and Gabe White, Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera pitched 2 2-3 innings of scoreless relief.
“It means I’ve been playing a long time and I’ve been lucky enough to stay healthy and play on some good teams and be consistent,” said Mussina, 200-112 in his career. “I’m pleased with that. I certainly hope it’s not my last one. It’s a big accomplishment.”
Crosby also helped Mussina out with several outstanding catches in center field, earning multiple standing ovations from the Yankee Stadium crowd.
Gary Sheffield drove in two runs to help the Yankees kick-start their offense a bit and gain a split of the four-game series. New York’s vaunted lineup has managed 36 runs in eight contests.
“It was important that we win this game,” Sheffield said.
The Rays’ most effective pitcher against the Yankees this season won’t start in this series. Victor Zambrano, who has beaten New York twice already, improved to 3-0 in 2004 with a 10-1 victory over Baltimore on Sunday.
Zambrano allowed one run over 6 2-3 innings to become the first starting pitcher to win three times through his team’s first seven games since Kevin Appier accomplished the feat for Kansas City in 1995. The right-hander held the Orioles to 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, giving up seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
“It’s important for the team,” Zambrano said. “It’s a really good thing for us. We are a team. We’re working together.”
Sunday’s win gave the Rays a victory in the three-game series over the Orioles, to go with the two series they split with the Yankees.