10/03/05 10:14 PM ET
Moose out to take postseason by horns
Mussina out to erase results of playoffs past in Anaheim
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
To make matters more difficult to bear for diehard Yankees fans, the team has managed to come up short every year high-priced starter Mike Mussina has pitched for them.
However, a look at the big games Mussina has pitched for the team since he signed before the 2001 season proves that it's a mere coincidence.
Tuesday's Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Angels will mark the sixth postseason series in which Mussina has started Game 1 for the Yankees.
"Not that these other guys haven't pitched important games," Yankees manager Joe Torre said, alluding to Shawn Chacon, Aaron Small and Chien-Ming Wang, "but when you come into the postseason, with everything you have to deal with, I'd rather have somebody that has been down that road before."
Mussina certainly has done that.
Although Mussina has been battling inconsistency and an inflamed elbow in the past month and gave up five runs in 1 2/3 innings to the Baltimore Orioles in his last outing Sept. 27, the Yankees and Mussina have faith that the veteran right-hander will come through.
"Any time Moose takes the mound, we've got a ton of confidence, but it's not all that different for the rest of our guys," said first baseman Tino Martinez, who has been in the playoffs seven times with the Yankees.
"Certainly, he's been under the lights as much as anybody we have."
The Yankees' starting rotation has been in flux all year, and while Mussina's numbers -- 13-8 with a 4.41 ERA in 2005 after a 12-9 record and 4.59 ERA in 2004 -- have improved over the last year, Mussina admitted that his injuries have made it more difficult than it used to be.
"It's frustrating," Mussina said. "It was frustrating last year. I had an injury last year [also an elbow strain] that kept me out of five or six weeks in the summertime, and it's frustrating when you're accustomed to going out there 33 times and pitching 215 innings or 220 innings. It gets frustrating when you have to deal with this stuff."
And it doesn't get much easier.
The Angels won 12 of their last 14 games to match the Yankees with a 95-67 record, seizing home-field advantage in this series because the Angels won six of the 10 games the two teams played this year.
Mussina has faced the Angels three times in 2005 with varying results.
On April 27, he gave up five runs on 10 hits in seven innings in a 5-1 Yankees loss in Yankee Stadium.
He rebounded on July 24 in Anaheim, getting a victory with 6 1/3 innings of seven-hit, one run ball, but fell five days later in New York when the Yankees couldn't support his eight-inning, three-run effort and lost, 4-1.
The only time Mussina faced the Angels in the playoffs wasn't pretty.
In Game 3 of the 2002 ALDS in Anaheim, Mussina gave up four runs on six hits in four innings and left with a groin injury. The Yankees blew a 6-1 lead in the game and went on to lose the series in Game 4.
Mussina said he hopes his luck against the speedy, situational offense of the Angels will change and that he feels healthy.
"I'm not worried about [the injury]," Mussina said. "I mean, you can't worry about it. I'll just go out there and pitch with whatever I have.
"I've had plenty of rest. I didn't have to pitch [Sunday] in the last game of the season. I'm sure it can do nothing but help me. I'm not concerned about it."
He also said he's not concerned about pitching in front of what will almost surely be a sellout Angel Stadium crowd of nearly 45,000.
"I know I've had a couple of opportunities on the road before," Mussina said. "You have to be able to do both. You can't just be able to pitch at home.
"You have to be able to go out on the road and win games if you want to win this thing, and that's what we're looking to do."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.