Mussina (14-7, 3.57 ERA) has been chosen by manager Joe Torre to start Game 2 of next week’s AL division series against Minnesota or Detroit.
He was chosen for Game 2 over Randy Johnson since Torre wants to give the five-time Cy Young Award winner as much rest as possible to overcome his back spams. Another factor is Mussina’s success at home, where he is 8-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 15 outings, and that as a Game 2 starter, Mussina may be available as a relief pitcher for a decisive fifth game.
New York (96-63) will open the postseason at home after AL West champion Oakland lost 2-0 Thursday to the Los Angeles Angels.
The 37-year-old right-hander hasn’t lost at Yankee Stadium since June 15, going 4-0 with a 2.34 ERA over his last seven starts. He’s looking to win 15 games for the 10th time in his career, but for the first time since 2003.
Mussina is 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA in three outings against Toronto (85-74) this year.
New York has plenty to play for this weekend since it leads AL Central co-leaders Detroit and Minnesota by one game for the best record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“They’ll play through the weekend,” Torre said.
New York is 9-6 against Toronto this year and needs one win this weekend to capture the season series for the sixth straight season.
The Blue Jays are in second place behind the Yankees, one game ahead of the Boston Red Sox. They are motivated to finish higher than third for the first time since winning the World Series in 1992-93.
“It’s a good sign that guys aren’t quitting and resting on their numbers,” catcher Gregg Zaun said. “I would just like to look up at the end of the season and see Toronto under New York in the standings.
“For us to not quit and be thinking about the end of the season says a lot about these guys. I think there’s a lot of pride in this locker room. It would be a nice consolation prize to finish second.”
The Blue Jays have won 16 of their last 24 games after winning two of three in Detroit to begin their season-ending six-game road trip.
Toronto starter Gustavo Chacin (9-3, 4.90) seeks to end his injury-plagued season on a winning note. Chacin has been limited to 16 starts this year due to a sprained ligament in his left elbow.
The left-hander improved to 3-0 with a 2.40 ERA over his last five outings Sunday by giving up three runs and six hits over five innings in a 13-4 victory over Boston.
Chacin is 2-5 with a 5.06 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees, including 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA in two outings this year.
A victory by Chacin would give the Blue Jays four pitchers with at least 10 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990-93.