Two months into the season, however, and each is pitching more like an ace.
After opening the season 1-3 with a 5.75 ERA in his first four starts, Mussina (8-4, 4.26 ERA) drew the ire of Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, who said the 39-year-old right-hander “needs to learn how to pitch like (45-year-old left-hander) Jamie Moyer.”
Mussina overcame a four-run first and lasted six innings in a 6-5 victory at Minnesota on Friday. He had one bad inning for the second consecutive start, but avoided further trouble while throwing a season-high 109 pitches.
“I’m able to do what I want to do with the baseball anyway. I couldn’t do that last year,” Mussina said. “Today was one of those games that if I didn’t change the game plan or I couldn’t change the game plan, I would’ve been out of there in two or three innings.”
Mussina had won five straight decisions against the Blue Jays before losing to them on April 2. He is 23-12 with a 3.35 ERA in 42 starts versus Toronto.
Giving the Yankees’ bullpen a break will be a top priority for Mussina after converted reliever Joba Chamberlain lasted only 2 1-3 innings in his first major league start Tuesday.
“It’s his first start,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He wasn’t quite as sharp as he probably wanted to be but in saying that, he kept us in the game.”
David Eckstein drove in three runs and Toronto (32-28) used a six-run seventh to beat the Yankees 9-3.
New York (28-30) used five relievers in its third straight loss, dropping behind Baltimore into last place in the AL East.
Toronto improved to 4-3 on a nine-game road trip and won for the 15th time in 21 games.
Alex Rios went 1-for-5, extending his hitting streak against the Yankees to 24 games. He is batting .356 (36-for-101) with three homers and 16 RBIs during the run.
Derek Jeter singled in the ninth to tie Mickey Mantle for third on the Yankees’ career list with 2,415 hits, trailing only Babe Ruth (2,518) and Lou Gehrig (2,721).
Litsch (7-1, 3.18) has taken a huge step forward in his second season after winning seven of 20 starts in 2007. The right-hander went 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in six May outings, becoming the first Blue Jays pitcher with seven wins in the first 10 starts of a season since Roy Halladay in 2005.
“He’s thrown some gems for us, he really has,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said on the team’s official Web site. “But he does what he’s supposed to do. He throws strikes, he’s not going to get beat with walks and he uses his defense.”
Litsch was brilliant for the second consecutive start, tossing seven-hit ball over seven innings in a 12-0 victory at Oakland on Thursday.
After failing to make it out of the first inning in his first career start against the Yankees on May 30, 2007, Litsch went 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his next two outings versus them.