Mussina will try to notch the elusive milestone on the final day of the season for the Yankees on Sunday, when they play a day-night doubleheader against the Red Sox.
The Red Sox (94-66) will begin the postseason on the road as the AL wild card on Wednesday against the West champion Los Angeles Angels. Obviously, they won’t be going all-out during Sunday’s two games, with a big week in front of them.
“We’ll probably go a little shorter than we would have,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Saturday of keeping his players fresh and injury-free for the playoffs. “It’s a long day tomorrow, a long day today and yesterday. We’re going to try to play everybody.”
That should help Mussina (19-9, 3.47 ERA) in his quest for a 20th win. The 39-year-old right-hander won 19 games twice with Baltimore in 1995 and 1996, but had never won more than 18 in his first seven seasons with New York (88-72).
“I told him, ‘Moose, you got to be ready to play two,’” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Mussina, who will start the opener, is 1-2 with a 4.57 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox this year. He’s 20-17 in his career versus Boston, but he’s also winless in his last eight starts at Fenway Park, going 0-3 with a 6.29 ERA.
He’ll be opposed by Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-2, 2.80), who has won back-to-back starts and seven consecutive decisions after a loss to the Angels on July 28, a span of 10 starts.
The right-hander turned in one of his best outings of the year last Sunday at Toronto, scattering two hits with two walks over seven innings of a 3-0 victory.
Matsuzaka labored to victory in his only start against the Yankees this year, giving up four runs and five hits while walking six in five innings on April 13. He is 3-1 despite a 6.30 ERA in five lifetime starts versus New York.
Wakefield will likely pitch out of the bullpen for Boston in the playoffs because he’s been ineffective in September, going 2-2 with a 8.50 ERA in four outings. The knuckleballer is 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this year.
Ponson will make his second start in Boston this season in far different circumstances from his first one. When he took the mound on July 27, the Yankees had a chance to complete a three-game sweep and tie the Red Sox for second place in the standings, but Ponson was ripped for seven runs in four innings in a 9-2 loss. New York never got that chance to tie Boston again.
Ponson fell to 2-5 with a 7.81 ERA in 10 career starts at Fenway. He’s 0-2 with a 11.42 ERA in two outings versus the Red Sox this year, and 3-13 with a 6.95 ERA in 22 career starts against them.