07/01/08 12:53 AM ET
Yanks edged by Rangers in opener
Mussina's solid start not enough; A-Rod hits 534th career tater
By Samantha Newman / MLB.com
The Bombers limited the offensive firepower of Texas to just two runs, a feat that would satisfy most clubs. But it was soured when the Yankees couldn't get their own bats to heat up and take advantage.
The Yankees managed just four hits, and when they couldn't cash in on scoring opportunities, the result was a tough 2-1 loss to the visiting Rangers in the opener of a three-game series.
The defeat came despite a terrific outing from starter Mike Mussina. The right-hander didn't let himself get rattled after he threw 31 pitches in the first inning. Instead, the veteran bounced back. He gave up just two runs on five hits in six innings, and he racked up eight strikeouts, including four of a red-hot Milton Bradley.
There was no question Mussina threw effective pitches Monday. The problem was, so did Scott Feldman. The Texas starter used an effective sinker and cutter to quiet the Yankees' offense.
"I had good stuff today and so did their guy," Mussina said. "It's just today two runs was good enough to win a ballgame. Not very often do you see 2-1 games with Texas and the Yankees. Today it was. I know they've been scoring a lot of runs and I held them down, but it's just the way it happens."
In a contest featuring two offensively stacked teams, it was the performances on the mound that stood out. Most of the Bombers' lineup hadn't seen much of Feldman before and struggled to produce hits off the right-hander.
"A lot of times when you have veteran guys, they like to see a guy," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I don't know if it's you have veteran hitters that like to have an idea of what a guy's got and how he's approached him in the past."
New York did connect on several Feldman offerings to open up scoring possibilities. Alex Rodriguez put some life into the Bombers' offense and blasted a solo home run over the left-center-field wall to put the Yankees on the scoreboard in the fourth inning. The homer was No. 534 for A-Rod's career, which tied Jimmie Foxx for 14th place on the all-time list.
Slugger Jason Giambi gave his team a chance to tie the game in the sixth, when he hit his first triple since 2002, hustling and sliding to reach third base. It was the opportunity the Yankees needed, but Jorge Posada struck out swinging to end the inning.
"He's played his heart out," Girardi said of Giambi. "He knew that as shallow as their outfielders play, it would be tough for him to score from second base. So he took a shot, ran hard out of the box and ended up on third, but we didn't capitalize."
And that trend spread throughout the game. New York just couldn't seem to knock in the runs it needed to.
The Texas fielders also snagged hard-hit balls from Rodriguez and Johnny Damon to take away potential hits.
"You've got to tip your hat to their defense," Girardi said. "They played well today."
The Yankees' bullpen kept up the solid pitching effort and held New York within reach of a win throughout the game. The relief trio of Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras and Dan Giese surrendered just two hits and didn't give up any runs through three innings.
Veras has proven particularly consistent and reliable in recent outings. After a wild pitch in the eighth that sent Michael Young to third base, Veras maintained his control to end the inning without allowing the Rangers to score.
"The better he does, the more confidence he gains in himself, and it seems like right now he has a lot of confidence," Derek Jeter said.
But despite the impressive pitching performances, the run support wasn't there to back it up. The Bombers ended the night 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and they tallied just four hits for the second straight game.
"Sometimes guys are going to pitch well," said Jeter, who went 0-for-4 at the plate. "So if you don't swing the bats well for a couple games, it's not always considered a slump. It's just their guys beat us, that's the bottom line.
"Sometimes guys are going to be better than you, and they were better than us today."
Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.