Yankees 4, Royals 0
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Mike Mussina picked the perfect time to regain his touch.
After ending a career-worst five-game losing skid last week, the right-hander held the Kansas City Royals to three hits in eight innings Tuesday night, pitching the New York Yankees to a 4-0 victory. He struck out a season-high 11.
“If I’m going to get hot, this is the time to do it,” Mussina said.
He also went eight innings against Tampa Bay in his previous start, giving up four hits and one run.
“I wouldn’t say I’m actually hot yet,” Mussina said. “But I’ve thrown the ball well for a couple of games. I’ve got a couple of more games to go before the postseason and hopefully I can keep going out there.”
In another positive for the Yankees, Jason Giambi returned to the lineup for the first time since July 23. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a long drive to the right-field warning track.
Recovering from a benign tumor, intestinal parasite, strained groin and respiratory infection, the 2000 AL MVP is hitless in his last 24 major league at-bats.
Manager Joe Torre said Giambi would be back in the lineup against Kansas City on Wednesday.
“Hopefully, it will come back quick,” Giambi said. “But for the most part I took some decent at-bats tonight. It’s good to be back with the guys.”
Derek Jeter hit a two-run single, helping New York bounce back from a 17-8 drubbing Monday night. The Yankees, who led the AL East by 10 1/2 games in mid-August, boosted the margin over second-place Boston to four games, their biggest advantage since they were up by 4 1/2 games before play on Aug. 31. Boston comes to New York for a three-game series starting Friday.
“When you pitch well you restore order,” Torre said. “And that’s basically what Moose did tonight.”
Mussina (11-9) gave up just three singles while dominating a team that roughed up seven New York pitchers for 18 hits the night before. It was the 38th time he struck out at least 10, and he improved his career record against Kansas City to 15-6. In 12 starts in Kauffman Stadium, the 13-year veteran is 8-1.
“He’s tough,” Royals catcher John Buck said. “He was changing speeds, moving his location in and out. He pitched ahead all night.”
Tom Gordon stuck out two in a perfect ninth, finishing New York’s fourth shutout of the season. Kansas City (three) and Colorado (two) are the only major league teams with fewer.
Royals rookie Zack Greinke (8-10) went six innings, giving up just three hits and two runs on Jeter’s bases-loaded single in the fifth.
Jeter, who has hit safely and scored in 10 straight games, reached on a fielder’s choice in the eighth and came around on Alex Rodriguez’s double off Dennys Reyes. Gary Sheffield’s RBI single scored Rodriguez to make it 4-0.
Greinke, varying speeds on his usual assortment of fastballs, breaking balls and slow curves, retired his first 10 batters until Rodriguez grounded a single up the middle with one out in the fourth.
The right-hander, known for his smug arrogance, got a talking-to from plate umpire Doug Eddings in the fifth.
Greinke threw Bernie Williams an inside pitch on 3-2 and started walking toward the dugout after Eddings called ball four. The veteran umpire pulled off his mask and went straight to the mound for a few words with the rookie.
“I really don’t know what was said. He said, `Quick pitch,”’ Greinke said. “And I don’t know his exact words so I don’t want to say. I had my momentum going to the dugout. I just took another five steps. I didn’t want to stop. I wasn’t getting that pitch all night.”
Williams, a day after his 36th birthday, played his 1,790th game and moved past Bill Dickey for sixth place on the Yankees’ career list. … When Royals SS Angel Berroa struck out in the fourth, it was the first time in nine plate appearances he did not reach base.