Mussina, Molina lead Yanks in win over Angels
These two are so in sync that Molina didn’t stop to see Mussina’s grin—he just knew the right-hander was smiling.
Mussina retired the final 17 batters he faced in seven solid innings, Molina hit one of New York’s four home runs and the Yankees snapped Los Angeles’ five-game winning streak with an 8-2 victory Saturday.
“It’s almost like we’ve been buddies for 15 years,” Mussina said. “We don’t need to sit down. … We make up a game plan after we’ve started.”
Molina has been behind the plate for 21 of Mussina’s 23 starts, and manager Joe Girardi decided to stay with the combination after the Yankees acquired future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez on Wednesday.
On Saturday, Molina guided Moose to his 264th career win by using what the catcher called “feelings.”
“You realize very quickly he has a good idea what he’s doing. His feel for it is impressive,” Mussina said. “He understands what’s going on. … He knows how to catch.”
Molina also provided some offense, scoring three times and going 3-for-3, including his first home run since Sept. 5—a span of 221 at-bats.
“He’s a big part of our team,” Girardi said. “Just had an outstanding day.”
After two nights of being outclassed by the Angels in every aspect of the game, the Yankees rebounded with a complete win of their own despite missing Robinson Cano from the starting lineup.
Alex Rodriguez, Wilson Betemit and Bobby Abreu all homered and Mussina, a six-time Gold Glove winner, made several stellar plays on the mound in front of 54,170 fans on Old-Timers’ Day, helping the Yankees to their second victory in seven games.
Playing without center fielder Torii Hunter, who traveled home to Pine Bluff, Ark., on Saturday morning to attend the funeral of his grandmother, Edna Cobbs, the Angels dropped to 12-3 after the All-Star break. Los Angeles also was without shortstop Maicer Izturis, who jammed his thumb making a spectacular play in Friday’s 1-0 win. X-rays of the hand showed a sprain, and manager Mike Scioscia said “sprains can take some time (to heal).”
The Yankees looked as if they were headed for another woeful outing against the team with the best record in baseball. They fell behind 2-0 in the second inning thanks to fill-in second baseman Betemit’s throwing error. And the first four New York batters struck out against Jered Weaver, three looking.
Bouncing back from a rough outing against Baltimore, Mussina (14-7) was dominant after loading the bases on two hits and a walk, and giving up two runs — one earned—in the second. Had Betemit completed the double-play turn, Mussina would have gotten out of the inning without allowing a run.
“He was just hitting the corners,” said Mark Teixeira, who went 0-for-3 for the Angels. “That’s the way he is. He’s going to live on the corners. This guy’s one of the great pitchers of our era.”
With the bases loaded, Mussina got Jeff Mathis, who had not grounded into a double play in 203 at-bats, to hit a routine grounder to third. Alex Rodriguez made the throw to second for an out, but Betemit’s relay to first was in the dirt and the ball bounced out of Giambi’s mitt, allowing Howie Kendrick to score the second run.
“The second inning was just a groundball single to right, a flyball that bounced into the stands and a groundball that didn’t get turned,” Mussina said.
In the field, Mussina snared a sharp comebacker to start the game, pounced on a bunt in the third and handled another hard-hit grounder in the fourth.
Abreu homered in the third, Molina connected in the fifth and A-Rod led off the sixth with the 542nd homer of his career and 24th of the season.
“A couple of them were good pitches they put good swings on—Abreu and the one to A-Rod,” Weaver said. “You just tip your cap to them.”
Weaver (9-9) allowed six runs and eight hits in five-plus innings. He struck
Willie Randolph received one of the loudest ovations from fans during Old-Timers’ Day introductions. Randolph won six World Series titles as a player and coach with New York. He was fired as manager of the New York Mets in June. … Angels catcher Mike Napoli, on the DL retroactive to June 6 with right shoulder irritation, played five innings for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday night. Manager Mike Scioscia said Napoli needs four or five starts before being activated.