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Frustrated Mussina loses again
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10/13/2003 10:38 PM ET 
Frustrated Mussina loses again
Right-hander has two hard-luck losses in ALCS
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Mike Mussina has given up five home runs in two ALCS starts vs. the Red Sox. (Elise Amendola/AP)
BOSTON -- Mike Mussina is frustrated.

His 45 minutes sitting still in the training room -- presumably wondering what went wrong in his loss in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series --spelled that out.

The Red Sox tied the ALCS, 2-2, with their 3-2 win over Mussina and the Yankees on Monday night.

That means New York has won five games and lost three in this postseason, and Mussina has been tagged with all three losses: one against Minnesota in the AL Division Series and two in this series.

    Mike Mussina   /   P
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185
Bats/Throws: R/R

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"They all hurt," Mussina said. "When you get one right after the other, it tends to aggravate you more each time."

In Mussina's start in Game 1 of this series, he stepped out of character a bit.

The right-hander, usually stingy when it comes to the home run ball, watched David Ortiz, Todd Walker and Manny Ramirez go deep in Yankee Stadium to power the Red Sox to a 5-2 win and a 1-0 lead in the series.

It wasn't just the home runs, however.

Mussina wasn't displaying the usual command that has put him among the game's elite starters for the last 12 seasons.

He was nibbling at the corners of the strike zone and just missing, and it led to a very unMussina-like pitching line of 5 2/3 innings, eight hits and four runs.

On Monday night in Game 4, Mussina looked like himself again, striking out 10 batters in his 6 2/3 innings and giving up three runs.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, the long balls haunted him again and so did New York's lack of offensive support.

The Yankees scored two runs against Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in Game 1 and two total runs in Monday's loss.

That didn't go unnoticed by Mussina.

"I can only control 60 feet, six inches," he said. "I did my job the best I can. The other stuff has to be tended to by other people, not me."

Mussina gave up only six hits all night, but two of them were solo homers -- one by Walker and another by Trot Nixon.

In the seventh, a walk on a close pitch to Kevin Millar and a Nixon double contributed to an eventual fielder's choice RBI by pinch-hitter Jason Varitek. It gave the Sox the 3-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish and sent Mussina to the showers for the night.

"The pitch to Walker was too much over the plate, but otherwise he made good pitches," Mussina's catcher, Jorge Posada, said. "He was down in the zone and threw a lot of splitters. He's got to be shaking his head right about now."

Actually, Mussina wasn't moving his head. He had his chin in his hand while he iced his elbow.

"I haven't cooled down yet," he said.

Mussina has never been a home run pitcher. In his career, he's given up one long ball per every 10 2/3 innings pitched, and this year he surrendered one every 10 frames.

Monday's Red Sox power show brought Boston's total against Mussina to five homers in 12 2/3 innings.

It wasn't all that alarming to Yankees manager Joe Torre.

"One thing about it, when you're a good pitcher and you throw a lot of strikes, you're going to give up home runs," Torre said. "He gave up two home runs with nobody on. You go after people. They just beat him twice."

And Walker has beaten him twice, too.

Walker had 13 homers in the regular season but has hit two of his Red Sox postseason-record five off Mussina.

According to Walker, the home run that got the Boston offense started Monday night was a product of a lesson learned, not necessarily a Mussina mistake.

Walker said his Game 1 homer was a Mussina changeup on a 2-and-0 count that came after a 1-and-0 changeup. On Monday, Walker adjusted his approach.

"It's a big chess game with Mike Mussina because he's a thinking pitcher out there," Walker said. "I've faced him enough to know that you've got to think along with him. I eliminated the changeup based on New York and got a fastball to hit."

While Mussina was awash in frustration, Torre maintained the confidence that led him to choose Mussina as his No. 1 playoff starter this year.

"We are not giving him a lot to work with," Torre said. "He's been pitching under pressure and he's done very well. We just haven't been able to pull the trigger on an inning for him."

Mussina echoed that sentiment throughout his postgame interviews.

"I don't bear all the responsibility," Mussina said.

"I have to go out there and pitch well."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This column was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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