Mike Mussina looks to continue his dominance of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Yankee Stadium on Friday night when he takes the mound in the opener of a four-game set between the New York Yankees and the team with the worst record in baseball.
Mussina (4-6, 4.61 ERA) is 7-0 with a minuscule 1.07 ERA in seven starts against Tampa Bay in the Bronx. He’s got 44 strikeouts and just eight walks in those games.
The 38-year-old right-hander has only lost once to the Devil Rays overall in his last seven outings, going 5-1 with a 2.20 ERA.
Mussina is facing Tampa Bay (37-57) for his second straight start as he allowed three runs - all in the first two innings - and a season-high 11 hits in six frames and did not receive a decision in a 7-6 win on Sunday.
“I got a lot of breaks,” Mussina told the team’s official Web site. “I realized it was going to be a fight the whole time. Somehow, I just was able to hang in there and get outs when I needed.
“Whether it’s pretty or it’s ugly, it all counts the same.”
The veteran is scheduled to pitch to catcher Jorge Posada for the first time in nearly two months. The battery has not been used since a 7-3 loss to AL East-leading Boston on May 22.
Mussina was roughed up in that outing, allowing seven runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings, and Yankees manager Joe Torre paired him up with backup Wil Nieves for the following nine starts. The starter went 2-3 with a 3.60 ERA throwing to Nieves.
“Moose understands,” Torre said. “If we’re lucky enough to get to the postseason, that’s the way it’s going to have to be. They both understand and there has been no hesitation.”
The Yankees (48-45) had their five-game winning streak snapped with a 3-2 loss to Toronto on Thursday. Bobby Abreu had a two-run double in the first inning, but New York managed only four hits over the final eight.
Hideki Matsui went 1-for-4 in the loss to extend his season-high hitting streak to 14 games for the Yankees. He’s batting .375 (21-for-56) during his run.
New York has had trouble with Tampa Bay this season, splitting eight meetings after going 13-5 in last year’s season series. The teams split a rain-shortened, two-game season-opening series at Yankee Stadium, creating a doubleheader Saturday.
The Devil Rays failed to complete their second three-game series sweep of the season on Thursday, as they lost 3-0 to the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels.
“It was one of those things, we couldn’t get a key hit,” Devil Rays left fielder Carl Crawford said.
Tampa Bay has only managed four wins in its last 21 games, spiraling to the worst record in baseball. Its bullpen has been a major problem during the poor run, blowing four of six save opportunities with a 7.49 ERA.
The Devil Rays, who have lost 11 of their last 12 road games, hope Edwin Jackson (1-9, 7.14) can get his first win against the Yankees.
The 23-year-old right-hander has no record and a 5.56 ERA in five games - one start - versus the division rivals. That lone start came opposite Mussina on Sunday, as Jackson allowed four runs and six hits, including a home run to Derek Jeter, with six strikeouts in six innings.
Jackson is 0-5 with a 6.05 ERA in 26 games, including 14 starts, on the road since his last away victory on Sept. 27, 2003 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Tampa Bay made two minor roster moves Thursday, including optioning infielder Jorge Cantu to Triple-A Durham on Thursday. Cantu is not certain to report to Durham, despite struggling with a .207 batting average in 25 games this season.