The New York Yankees know they'll need to be a lot more consistent to improve their chances at making the playoffs. With the reliable Mike Mussina on the mound, wins seem to be a lot easier to come by.
Mussina takes the ball Sunday against the Kansas City Royals, as the Yankees look to win their first series in three weeks.New York (65-58) won for just the second time in eight games Saturday, beating the Royals 3-2 in 13 innings. Brett Gardner singled through the left side of the infield with two outs in the 13th, driving in Robinson Cano.Gardner had three hits in his 19th game this season. He was called up from Triple-A on Friday after the Yankees sent Melky Cabrera down to shake up their struggling lineup."I don't care who ended it, we needed to win this game," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "It would have been a rough one for us to lose. We had so many opportunities. At this point, it doesn't make a difference how it looks. We need to get wins."The Yankees haven't won a series since taking two of three against Boston July 25-27. Since then, they've gone 0-3-2 in their last five series. New York trails Boston by six games for the AL wild card.Despite their recent troubles, the Yankees have played well behind Mussina (15-7, 3.30 ERA), winning 16 of his 25 starts.The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.25 over his last eight starts, but came away without a decision on Tuesday after giving up three runs and eight hits in seven innings of New York's 9-6, 12-inning victory at Minnesota."They've held the lead for me all year in every game," Mussina told the Yankees' official Web site. "I just go out and do what I'm supposed to do. Sometimes it doesn't work out the way you hope, but we won the game in the end and that's ultimately the most important thing."Mussina will be trying to secure his first 16-win season since going 17-8 in 2003. He is 17-7 with a 2.96 ERA in 34 all-time starts versus the Royals, including a 5-1 record and 2.35 ERA in his last eight.He didn't receive a decision against them on June 9, allowing two runs and seven hits over eight innings in a 3-2 victory at Yankee Stadium, where he is 4-1 in his last five starts and 9-6 with a 3.45 ERA in 16 overall outings.The Royals will be trying to bounce back from Saturday's loss behind Brian Bannister (7-11, 5.36), who is trying to win for the first time in nine starts.The right-hander, who is 0-5 with a 7.52 ERA during his winless stretch, gave up four runs and four hits -- three of them homers -- in a 9-0 road loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday."I feel like there is progress being made," said Bannister, who is 2-6 with a 7.74 ERA in 11 starts away from Kansas City. "There's not a ton of results right now, but I think I'm getting closer to where I need to be to help this team win a lot more ballgames in the future."He'll need a dominant effort if he wants to get the best of the Yankees. He is 1-1 with a 9.45 ERA in three starts against New York, which has hit .370 versus the Royals starter.Bannister escaped without a decision on June 7 after conceding five runs and eight hits over 3 1-3 innings in a 12-11 defeat at Yankee Stadium -- his only career appearance there.The Royals, just 6-30 at Yankee Stadium this decade, has not won a series in New York since 1999.