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Moose good, but Santana better
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10/06/2004 2:05 AM ET
Moose good, but Santana better
Mussina tough-luck loser in Game 1
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Mike Mussina pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out seven. (Julie Jacobson/AP)
NEW YORK - Disappointment is something that Mike Mussina takes in stride because it has seemed to identify his postseason career. Again and again, Mussina has tossed playoff gems, only to be bested by a sharper opponent.

Two runs in seven innings on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins again was good enough for second place for Mussina. The Twins' Johan Santana, who soaked up most of the publicity for this Game 1 matchup, was the better pitcher, scattering nine hits in seven innings.

Mussina, meanwhile, allowed a one-out RBI single to Shannon Stewart in the third inning and then an opposite-field solo homer to Jacque Jones in the sixth.

And it is the second year in a row Mussina has been bested by the Twins in Game 1. Last year, Mussina allowed three runs in seven innings in a 3-1 New York loss.

Tuesday's performance lowered Mussina's postseason ERA to 3.02, but also gave him a losing playoff record. As usual, Mussina, who has been plagued by lack of run support throughout his career, accepted defeat graciously.

"We only gave up two runs, and usually, that's good enough to win a game," he said. "Today, two runs was enough for them to win. I pitched a pretty decent game. (Santana) just pitched a little better game. "

Mussina did not make many mistakes Tuesday but facing a dominant pitcher, his margin for error was slim. The Twins executed small ball in the third inning to push across the game's first run. Michael Cuddyer led off with a single to right center. Catcher Henry Blanco followed with a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Cuddyer to second base.

Stewart, who had three hits in three at-bats against Mussina in the regular season, dunked a single to left-center to cash in Cuddyer for the 1-0 lead. It was the type of execution that has typified the Twins over the past few years. Against Santana, that run loomed large.

Mussina settled down and breezed through the fourth and fifth innings and then struck out Stewart to begin the sixth. Jones has had little success against Mussina, entering the game 2-for-22 lifetime with nine strikeouts. Jones is a splendid opposite field hitter and swung in vain at a first-pitch changeup.

Thinking Jones was looking changeup again, Mussina laid a fastball on the outside corner, Jones' wheelhouse. He drilled it deep into the left-field corner and onto the net that covers the monuments.

Jones, whose father passed away on Sunday, thrust his fist as he rounded first base.

Did you know?
In six appearances, including five starts, over the past two postseasons, Mike Mussina has posted a 1-3 record despite a 3.22 ERA. Over 36 1/3 innings, the Yankees' hard-luck right-hander has allowed 37 hits and nine walks while striking out 39.

"It just seems like this guy is channeled into my head and whatever I am sitting on, he throws the opposite," Jones said. "He left a pitch up that I could get to."

Mussina was removed after the seventh inning, allowing two runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts and one walk. He has lost five of his past six postseason decisions but his ERA is 3.86 since the postseason slump began.

Mussina is no stranger to getting a raw deal in the playoffs. With the Orioles in 1997, he had a dominating ALCS against Cleveland, allowing one earned run in 15 innings with 25 strikeouts. Yet, he ended up with two no-decisions.

"I thought I had a good breaking ball, and I kept using it when I needed it," he said. "We haven't played very well in Game 1 since I've been here. We'll find a way to get through it, find a way to come out and play better tomorrow."

Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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