MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Mike Mussina will turn 40 after the season, and his fastball is moving at mid-80s speed.
Well, he still knows how to pitch, and the Yankees have sure found him handy this year.
Abreu tied his career high with those four runs, helping Mussina (8-4) overcome a four-run first inning for his seventh win in eight starts. Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera each had three hits and two RBIs for further support.
“I’m able to do what I want to do with the baseball anyway. I couldn’t do that last year,” Mussina said, adding: “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.”
But Rivera stayed perfect with his 14th save in as many tries by pitching a scoreless ninth and striking out pinch-hitter Craig Monroe with a runner on first to end the game.
Twins starter Glen Perkins (2-2) gave up seven two-out hits and called this night an “internal battle” after struggling to put his fastball and changeup in the right places.
Perkins lost his early 4-1 lead when Rodriguez walloped a double to drive in Abreu and make it 5-4 Yankees with none out in the fifth. That was his last batter after 10 hits, two walks and no strikeouts—a clear step back after switching spots with the struggling Boof Bonser to stay on his regular rest pattern.
Scott Baker is expected to come off the disabled list soon, so someone will have to make room.
“It was a test today. I definitely didn’t pass the test,” Perkins said.
Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Delmon Young hit consecutive bases-loaded singles and Mike Lamb knocked in another run with a fielder’s choice grounder in the first, but the home-team excitement ended after that. After giving up all those groundballs that got through, Mussina changed his approach and starting pitching more inside.
“I don’t think I’ve blown up that many bats in a long time, so something was working,” Mussina said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, assessing his aging and injury-ravaged club before the game, said this: “We’re not buried, so that’s a good thing.”
They moved out of last place in the AL East with the win, and they’re only one hot week from joining the race. Chamberlain will start Tuesday, and catcher Jorge Posada is expected back soon.
Mussina, after a rough 2007 season, is one of the guys who have kept the team from collapsing. He’s 7-1 in his last eight starts after picking up career victory No. 258. Twenty-one of those have come against Minnesota, the most in the majors by an active pitcher.
“You don’t have to light up the radar gun to pitch well in this league, and he showed that,” said Twins third base coach Scott Ullger, who acted as manager while Ron Gardenhire attended his daughter’s high school graduation ceremony.
Like his last outing, Mussina had one bad inning—this time, it came right away—but wiggled his way out of it while throwing a season-high 109 pitches over six innings. Two of the runs were unearned, and he struck out four with only one walk and six hits.
“That’s what he does—pitches. He hits his spots. We had a good plan, a good approach. We hit some balls hard, but couldn’t get anything across the plate after the first inning,” Cuddyer said.
Abreu hit a lot of balls hard, too, but he made better use of them. With Rodriguez and the AL batting leader Matsui (.339) behind him in the order, Abreu’s been getting plenty of good stuff to hit.
“They don’t want you to be on base for a walk or whatever. You’re just going to take advantage of it,” he said.
Perkins was the 10th left-handed starter the Yankees have faced in their last 13 games. … The Yankees are 29-10 against the Twins since the start of 2002. … Derek Jeter, who has struggled since he was hit by a pitch on the wrist 10 days ago, went 0-for-5 and is in a 3-for-37 slide. He did, however, make a diving stop of Lamb’s grounder in the first to save a run or more. … The bushy mustache Jason Giambi is growing hasn’t helped his baserunning. He was thrown out easily by Cuddyer from right field trying to stretch a single into two bases. … Young’s streak of 217 consecutive games played, the longest current run in the majors, ended with his mental-break day off on Thursday. Though he had the RBI single in the first, Young is in a 2-for-27 slump. He also took a couple of awkward paths to balls hit toward him and missed two cutoff men with a wild throw on Abreu’s first triple. … The last time Mussina threw more than 109 pitches was on June 15, 2006, when he threw 110 against Cleveland. … Farnsworth has given up eight homers in 24 1-3 innings, accounting for 10 of the 12 earned runs against him. “It’s more than all of us would like, but he’s still getting important outs,” Girardi said.