Mike Mussina didn’t earn his seventh win last year until a matchup with Kansas City in August. He’s way ahead of that pace entering his first start of this season versus the Royals.
Mussina looks to earn his 10th win Monday, a total that could put him into the American League lead in that category, when he takes the mound for the New York Yankees in the finale of a four-game set with the Royals.
This is the 14th time in the last 15 years that Mussina (9-4, 4.01 ERA) has nine wins before the All-Star break, but he’s never reached that mark as fast as he has this season.
The veteran right-hander didn’t pick up his ninth win of 2007 until Sept. 12, against Toronto. He earned win No. 7 on Aug. 5 versus the Royals, giving up two runs and nine hits in six innings as the Yankees won 8-5.
Now, Mussina will face Kansas City (24-39) again as the tries to at least keep pace among the AL’s wins leaders. He is tied with Cleveland’s Cliff Lee and Los Angeles’ Joe Saunders, who are both pitching Monday.
Mussina has won three straight starts, posting a 3.71 ERA in that span. On Wednesday night, Mussina gave up one run and five hits while striking out a season-high six in six innings as the Yankees (32-31) beat Toronto 5-1.
It was his 259th win, one behind Hall of Famer Ted Lyons for 38th place on the all-time list.
Mussina went 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in two starts versus the Royals last season, and is 17-7 with a 2.98 ERA in 33 career starts against them. The Yankees, winners of four of their last five, could use another strong start from Mussina as they try to continue their momentum.
New York beat Kansas City 6-3 on Sunday for its ninth win its last 11 games at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have scored six runs or more eight times in that span.
Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-2 with a double and two RBIs, and is 6-for-10 with a home run, two doubles and four RBIs in this series, helping New York win the last two games.
“I have no pop,” joked Rodriguez, who just missing hitting 10th home run of the season in the seventh inning. “That’s why I went to the weight room after the game.”
Rodriguez and the Yankees’ lineup will now face struggling rookie Luke Hochevar (3-5, 5.13), who is 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA in his last four starts. He allowed four runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings as Kansas City lost 6-4 in 15 innings against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night.
In his only appearance against the Yankees, Hochevar gave up three hits in three scoreless innings of relief in an 11-5 Royals loss on Sept. 8.
This will be the 24-year-old right-hander’s first game at Yankee Stadium.
“A place with that much history, of course, every kid knows about Yankee Stadium,” he told the Royals’ official Web site. “You’re growing up, seeing it on TV, and you just kind of imagine what it’d be like to check it out.”
Kansas City starters have an 8.15 ERA in 33 games at Yankee Stadium since the start of the 2000 season, and the Royals have lost 29 of those contests.
Jose Guillen hit a two-run homer for Kansas City on Sunday, giving the right fielder three home runs and nine RBIs in his last two games. He has seven hits in 12 at-bats in this series.