Moose, Yankees take step back
Right-hander roughed up as Bombers' winning streak ends
NEW YORK -- Mike Mussina's ongoing torment boils down to this: the calendar keeps moving forward, while he doesn't appear to be.
Mussina's underwhelming season continued in a 7-3 Yankees loss to the Red Sox on Tuesday, as the right-hander surrendered all of Boston's runs -- including home runs by Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell.
The feelings Mussina is going through, he said, is one of depression, frustration and disappointment. Certainly, there is confusion mixed in. No matter its cause, it has to stop, he vowed.
"I'm getting tired of feeling that way," Mussina said. "Sooner or later here, I'm going to have to figure out what's going on, because I can't keep pitching like this and I certainly don't want to pitch like this. It's not what we need. I can't stand it, so I have to get to work and figure this out."
From the beginning, the 2007 season hasn't played up to expectations for Mussina, who rattled off 15 wins and a 3.51 ERA for the Yankees last year.
His Spring Training was riddled with bouts of inconsistency, and once the calendar flipped ahead to April, Mussina made just two starts before his left hamstring gave out in a start at Minnesota, costing him three weeks.
Mussina reported progress in starts three and four of the season after returning from the disabled list, twice defeating the Rangers, but his struggles began anew in a rain-necessitated doubleheader last week in Chicago.
"Coming off of the DL, I threw really well and I felt like I knew what I was doing and where the ball was going," Mussina said. "Now, I don't feel like I know what I'm doing or where the ball is going."
A creature of habit pitching on his seventh day, Mussina was out of sync in that start at U.S. Cellular Field, losing to the White Sox and blaming some of his poor performance on extra strength.
But there was no such excuse on Tuesday, as Mussina felt his fastball crackling in the low 90s and wasn't worried about his stuff coming out of the bullpen. Ramirez had other thoughts, blasting a three-run homer off Mussina in the first inning, and Lowell tacked on a solo shot in the fifth.
"It's almost June and I don't feel like I've done anything as far as contributing up to this point," Mussina said. "You play two months and we haven't done very well, and I'm part of that, because I haven't done very well."
With the Yankees clawing back against Boston starter Julian Tavarez, scraping together runs in the fourth and fifth innings, Mussina finally settled into a groove after the Lowell home run, retiring the next nine batters to face him.
But the silence was broken in the seventh, as Boston broke through for three runs to open up a sizable advantage. Coco Crisp reached on a fielder's choice and stole second base on a contested play, with several Yankees questioning umpire Joe West's call.
"It can go for you, it can go against you," manager Joe Torre said. "But it certainly changes the game around."
Julio Lugo stroked an RBI single and Kevin Youkilis followed with an RBI double to chase Mussina, and David Ortiz greeted reliever Mike Myers with a hit to score Boston's seventh run.
"That's just the way it was going," Mussina said. "Nothing was easy."
Meanwhile, the Yankees couldn't put much together against Tavarez, who pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed just three hits. Coming into the game with a 5.59 ERA, Tavarez, who walked four and struck out two, has had flashes of success against the Yankees in the past, and it was more of the same on Tuesday.
"He's located well against us," Torre said. "You certainly don't concern yourself about facing him. It's not one of those things. It's the guy who's able to locate and change speeds, and he does that."
"He doesn't throw anything straight," Jeter said. "It seemed like he has more life or more movement on his ball every time we face him, so he deserved to win today. We didn't have too many good swings off of him."
In the fourth inning, Hideki Matsui singled, advanced to third on a Jorge Posada single and then scored on a wild pitch. Robinson Cano doubled in the fifth inning and scored the Yankees' second run on a fielder's choice, but otherwise, Tavarez and a battery of three Boston relievers danced clear.
The Yankees made their loudest gasp in the eighth inning against reliever Hideki Okajima, who has been something of a puzzle to the Bombers this season -- so much so that first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz earlier referred to Okajima as Boston's MVP.
The MVP wasn't at his sharpest on Tuesday, though, as he allowed a one-out single to Jeter -- extending his hitting streak to 17 games -- and then walked both Matsui and Alex Rodriguez to load the bases.
Okajima induced Posada to ground to third for a fielder's choice, snapping the hurler's scoreless innings streak at 20 2/3 innings, but the Yankees were forced to settle for just one run when Bobby Abreu also bounced into a fielder's choice, prompting a chorus of boos from what remained of the crowd of 54,739.
"We certainly put the pressure on them, we just couldn't get the runs across," Torre said. "Not that you don't have the right guys up there. You'd like to think you'll get hits, but that's not always the case."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.