Mussina makes successful return to rotation as Yankees win seventh straight, 4-1 over Toronto

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TORONTO (AP)—Two weeks after he was dropped from the rotation, Mike Mussina made a strong pitch to rejoin the starting five.

Mussina pitched shutout ball into the sixth inning and the New York Yankees won their seventh straight game, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 Wednesday night.

“He was terrific,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He stayed ahead most of the night. I’m just really pleased and I know he’s happy about it.”

The Yankees held their four-game lead over Detroit in the AL wild-card race. They trail Boston by five games in the AL East.

Mussina (9-10) was dropped from the rotation in late August after allowing 19 earned runs over 9 2-3 innings in three straight losses. He made one relief appearance after that, his first ever in a regular-season game.

“It’s a lot more satisfying today, coming out of the game, than it was those other starts,” Mussina said. “When I look back on this year, those three games are probably going to ruin my year. I’ve got to live with that and move on from it.”

With Roger Clemens nursing a sore elbow, Mussina made his first start since Aug. 27 and gave up five singles in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out one, walked three and won for the first time since Aug. 11 at Cleveland.

“I had some movement on my pitches,” Mussina said. “I was able to get in on people. When I got them to a two-strike count I could expand the zone a little bit and get some ground balls or fly balls. The stuff that I couldn’t do before, I was able to do today.”

Torre said he would discuss Mussina’s status with pitching coach Ron Guidry after Clemens throws in the bullpen before Thursday’s series finale. If he’s healthy, Clemens is expected to pitch Sunday in Boston.

“Certainly Moose showed us that we can send him out there and he’s back to being the kind of pitcher that we know he is,” Torre said.

Making his 500th career appearance, Mussina said he hoped to leave an impression on the Yankees coaching staff.

“I just reminded them that I’m still here and I can still pitch,” Mussina said. “Hopefully the guys making those decisions will give me a chance to get back out there a couple more times.”

Mussina improved to 22-11 in 40 career starts against Toronto, the team he’s beaten the most in his career. The Blue Jays lost their fifth in a row overall.

Mussina left after Frank Thomas walked and Matt Stairs singled. Edwar Ramirez relieved and, after loading the bases with a walk to Aaron Hill, retired Lyle Overbay on a fly ball to end the sixth.

Yankees rookie reliever Joba Chamberlain worked a perfect seventh, then gave up the first run of his major league career in the eighth—it was unearned after third baseman Alex Rodriguez made a wild throw on Hill’s routine, two-out grounder.

Chamberlain’s scoreless streak ended at 15 1-3 innings, the longest by a Yankees pitcher at the start of his major league career since Slow Joe Doyle opened with 18 in 1906, the Elias Sports Bureau said.

Mariano Rivera replaced Chamberlain and gave up an infield single to Lyle Overbay, then struck out Gregg Zaun to end the inning. Rivera closed it out in the ninth for his 26th save in 29 opportunities.

“It’s the first time I’ve had to go get him, which is fine,” Torre said. “To go get him and bring in that No. 42 from the bullpen is no embarrassment.”

New York scored twice in the first against Dustin McGowan (10-9) after Bobby Abreu and Rodriguez walked. Hideki Matsui’s RBI double brought home the first run before a wild pitch made it 2-0.

The Yankees scored two more in the fourth when Matsui walked, stole second and went to third on a single by Jorge Posada. Jason Giambi was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Robinson Cano, who hit a two-run single.

McGowan allowed four runs on three hits in five innings. He lost for the first time in three starts.

“It seemed like every guy was a full count,” McGowan said. “It’s just a grind out there.”

The Yankees almost scored again in the ninth. With two outs and a runner on second, Johnny Damon hit a sinking liner that center fielder Vernon Wells charged. Replays clearly showed Wells trapped it on one bounce, but third-base umpire and crew chief Tim Tschida ruled it a catch.

Notes

The Yankees have won eight of their last 10 against Toronto. … Blue Jays 3B Troy Glaus will undergo season-ending surgery next week to repair a nerve in his left foot. He’s expected to be healthy in time for spring training. … The Yankees are 40-19 since the All-Star break, the best record in the major leagues.

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