Mussina suffers setback in Game 1
Starter allows five runs over 5 1/3; Abreu, Phelps homer
CHICAGO -- The walk from the visiting bullpen to the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field is only about 350 feet, but it must have felt much longer for Mike Mussina.
A long day of split-doubleheader baseball became even more of a grind for Mussina and the Yankees, who suffered a 5-3 defeat in Game 1 on Wednesday.
"I left the 'pen and didn't feel like I had anything on the ball," said Mussina, who allowed five runs -- including two homers -- in 5 1/3 innings of work. "In that circumstance, I knew it was going to be a lot of work as soon as I got going."
The 38-year-old right-hander had turned in a pair of sharp efforts for New York since making his way off the disabled list from a strained left hamstring. But one day after his scheduled start against the White Sox was postponed by rain, Mussina's luck ran out in the sixth inning, handing back the lead after the Yankees had twice evened the contest.
A.J. Pierzynski led off the sixth by driving a low-and-away offering over the left-field wall for a solo home run, his seventh of the season. Jermaine Dye stroked a one-out double and, after a hit batsman, scored on Joe Crede's single to chase Mussina (2-2).
"It seemed like he wasn't pinpoint with his control like he usually is," said catcher Jorge Posada, whose two-hit performance raised his May batting average to a Major League-best .477.
Struggling right-hander Luis Vizcaino came on and couldn't shield from further damage, surrendering a sacrifice fly to Tadahito Iguchi that increased Chicago's lead to three runs.
Mussina -- who also allowed a solo homer to Paul Konerko, his fifth, in the fourth inning -- was charged with five runs and eight hits over 5 1/3 innings, walking none and striking out one over an 86-pitch outing.
Afterward, Mussina complained that his lack of sharpness was probably due to too much time off, as the rainout had forced him to pitch after six days of rest.
Mussina had wandered into the raindrops on Tuesday night to play catch with bullpen catcher Mike Borzello, but Mussina said the effects of soft-tossing across the outfield grass and actually firing a full-blown mound session are not comparable.
He reported that his pitches lacked their usual bite and he found his offerings barely reaching Posada's glove, instead of feeling as though he could throw through the catcher, the plate umpire or to a specific spot on the backstop.
"It's tough when you're a starting pitcher and you're used to doing things a certain day, and things are getting messed up time after time," Mussina said.
The Yankees' offensive difficulties showed few signs of dissipating, as Torre's shuffled lineup managed just two runs against rookie left-hander John Danks.
Danks (2-4) limited New York to seven hits and struck out a career-high seven in 6 1/3 innings, walking two as he picked up his second Major League win.
The loss dropped the Yankees to 3-7 against left-handed starters this season, and the offensive difficulties were best represented by the struggles of Alex Rodriguez, who took an 0-for-4 collar in the first game.
After a torrid first month that saw him slug 14 homers and drive in 35 runs, Rodriguez's May has gone ice-cold, with just five hits in his last 26 at-bats and only two hits in 16 at-bats on this road trip.
"I think they're pitching a little bit more carefully to me," Rodriguez said. "With that, I have to have a little bit more patience. I'll take my walks and hit the ball hard."
The Yankees tied the game in the fifth when Bobby Abreu broke a 1-for-20 skid by driving a fastball to left-center field for his second home run of the year. But Chicago struck back in the fifth against Mussina, as Iguchi ripped a one-out double and came home when Darin Erstad connected for an RBI single to right.
The Yankees escaped further damage in the inning when Melky Cabrera reeled in a deep Juan Uribe drive, leaping against the left-field wall to save at least a run. Cabrera also cashed an RBI double in the sixth inning.
"Melky's a good player," Torre said. "He showed us that last year. Unfortunately, he hasn't played enough to get into his comfort zone this year, but there's a big upside to that kid."
Josh Phelps tacked on a run with a solo home run off Chicago reliever David Aardsma in the eighth, but it wasn't enough to rescue the Yankees from their fourth loss in five games.
Though Torre said the mood of the clubhouse remains upbeat, he believes some of the players in the clubhouse have taken the strain of losing upon their shoulders and are trying to reverse the trend individually, an approach which isn't advisable.
"I think everyone knows we're struggling and putting a little extra strain on themselves," Torre said. "We know we're much better than this."
Mussina echoed similar thoughts, delivering a stern word of warning between postgame sips from a can of Mountain Dew.
"We need to start doing things at the same times," Mussina said. "When we're hitting well, we're not pitching well. When we're pitching well, we're not hitting well. You keep doing that all year, and you're going to wind up a .500 club, at best."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.