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Yankees starter gives up 3 homers

10/10/2003 - New York Yankees

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees sent Mike Mussina to the mound hoping he would give them a lead in the AL championship series.

He couldn't even keep them close.

Mussina served up three home run balls to Boston, and the Red
Sox beat New York 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALCS on Wednesday night.

"My stuff wasn't too bad. I had trouble with the strike zone
once in a while," Mussina said. "I thought the strike zone was
small tonight."

Not only is Mussina the lone Yankees starter without a win this
postseason, he's got both losses. Now, New York will try to bounce
back and bail him out again.

"It's frustrating to go out there and pitch two games where we
just didn't play very well," Mussina said. "I'm really not
disappointed with the way I've thrown the ball. We just haven't
been able to do much offensively."

The right-hander actually pitched pretty well in a 3-1 defeat
against Minnesota in Game 1 of the first round last Tuesday -- he
simply didn't get any help from his teammates on defense or at the
plate.

But Mussina was roughed up by the Red Sox in this one, giving up
home runs to David Ortiz, Todd Walker and Manny Ramirez as Boston
broke out to a 5-0 lead.

"When you're a starting pitcher and you're used to going out
there every fifth day, eight days is too long," Mussina said.
"But you can't do anything about it. We're all stuck in the same
boat."

The Yankees tried to rally against Tim Wakefield and the shaky
Boston bullpen, scoring twice in the seventh inning. Mussina,
however, had left his team too far behind.

This wasn't what impatient owner George Steinbrenner had in mind
when he signed "Moose" to an $88.5 million, six-year contract as
a free agent before the 2001 season. Yankees manager Joe Torre even
called the soft-spoken Mussina to help lure him to the Big Apple.

Mussina, still looking for his first World Series ring, has been
solid for the Yankees, just as he was with Baltimore before. He's
won 52 games the past three seasons, and he earned the Game 1
assignments by going 17-8 with a 3.40 ERA this year.

Yet he hasn't always been able to match that success when it
really counts: He's 2-3 in seven postseason starts with the
Yankees.

And he couldn't duplicate his previous success against the Red
Sox. Mussina is 16-11 with a 3.09 ERA in 39 career regular-season
starts against Boston. He faced them three times this season but
did not get a decision.

"We talked about it all year. You don't pitch well, they can
beat you up, and they did," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "A
number of times this year when we didn't pitch well, they let us
know about it."

Ortiz, who hit six homers against the Yankees during the regular
season, was 0-for-20 lifetime against Mussina before sending a 3-2
pitch into the front row of the upper deck in right field at Yankee
Stadium in the fourth inning.

"The only pitch I really think he made a mistake on was the
Ortiz pitch. He's a good fastball hitter and, after taking him to
3-2, we gave him a fastball that had too much of the plate,"
catcher Jorge Posada said.

Ramirez was aboard after an infield single, and the two-run shot
snapped a scoreless tie.

Mussina struck out three of his next four batters, but faltered
again in the fifth.

Walker led off with a drive down the right-field line that right
field umpire Angel Hernandez called foul. But he was quickly
overruled by plate umpire and crew chief Tim McClelland.

"I felt like the pitch I hit out was a pretty quality pitch,"
Walker said. "He was tough. But I think that lineup is so
relentless. I think in this case, great hitting beats great
pitching."

Three batters later, Ramirez hit a high drive just over the
right-field fence for his 15th career postseason homer.

Mussina was lifted with two outs in the sixth after allowing
four runs and eight hits. He trudged off the mound with his head
down to a mix of cheers and boos from the disappointed crowd of
56,281.

Boston added a run against Jeff Nelson on Kevin Millar's RBI
single in the seventh.