NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Mussina mulled over the number for a while:
2,500 strikeouts. And the New York Yankees' ace, always the
thinking man's pitcher, decided it was pretty impressive.
"It's nice," he said. "I know not a lot of people have done
it."Mussina became the 28th pitcher to reach the milestone, but he
seemed more pleased with pitching seven strong innings Sunday for a
2-1 victory over Dontrelle Willis and the Florida Marlins in the
first game of a day-night doubleheader."When you're up against a pitcher like Dontrelle, you know he's
up for the game," Mussina said. "When you know the other guy is
pitching the way he has been, runs are going to be at a premium. We
both pitched well. It was the kind of game you expect with two
quality pitchers."Mussina and Willis dueled on even terms until Johnny Damon's
upper-deck home run in the seventh broke a 1-1 tie and gave Mussina
his 233rd career victory.The win was significant to the right-hander because he had
struggled lately."It was a lot of work," Mussina said. "I made some good
pitches against guys who've never seen me before. It was a lot
better than it's been for the last two weeks. I was pleased."Damon wondered how Mussina ever struggles."I couldn't understand that," he said. "He throws that Bugs
Bunny changeup that freezes guys. That's a pitch that looks like
you can swing at it two or three times. It's a baseball cartoon
pitch."Damon's sacrifice fly drove in the Yankees' first run and the
Marlins tied it in the sixth on an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera.
With Mussina at 105 pitches, the seventh inning was his last. He
fanned Cody Ross for his sixth strikeout of the game and No. 2,500.Earlier, Mussina struck out Hanley Ramirez in the fourth, and
Yankees coach Lee Mazzilli called for the ball."I told him, `We need six, that's only five," Mussina said.
"It took me three more innings to get to six."The Mussina-Willis matchup lived up to its billing. Willis (4-7)
allowed seven hits in his third complete game this season and the
14th of his career. He struck out six and walked three."I went up against a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher today,"
Willis said.The pitch that beat him was Damon's 11th home run of the season."It was a slider," Willis said. "It was just bad location and
he just squared it up."Damon drove a 2-1 pitch from Willis into the right-field upper
deck. That made a winner of Mussina (9-3), who allowed five hits
over seven innings.The Yankees won their fourth in a row and handed the young
Marlins their second straight loss. Florida has dropped only three
of its last 13."It was another one-run loss," Florida manager Joe Girardi
said. "It was frustrating. Dontrelle threw a great game. You think
when you give up two runs you're going to win the game, but Moose
was pretty stubborn."Kyle Farnsworth escaped an eighth-inning jam and Mariano Rivera
got three quick outs for his 16th save in 18 chances.After Damon's homer gave the Yankees the lead, Farnsworth came
in for the eighth and gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Joe
Borchard. He moved up on a sacrifice and went to third on a single
by Ramirez, who stole second.With runners at second and third, Mike Jacobs struck out and
Cabrera was intentionally walked. Then Josh Willingham flied out,
leaving the bases loaded.The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the third on a hit
batsman and two walks. But Willis struck out Jorge Posada to end
the inning.Mussina retired his first 11 batters. With two outs in the
fourth, Jacobs singled up the middle. Cabrera followed with a
double to the wall in right-center, but Jacobs was thrown out
trying to score on a perfect relay from Bernie Williams to Robinson
Cano to Posada."They've got to make a perfect relay to get him and they made
it," Girardi said.Williams opened the fourth with a single and Andy Phillips
walked. Cano tried to sacrifice, but Williams was forced at third.
Melky Cabrera followed with a bloop single, loading the bases.
Damon then hit a sacrifice fly, giving New York a 1-0 lead.Mussina allowed a pair of singles in the fifth and walked the
first two batters in the sixth, including a 10-pitch free pass to
Ramirez. Jacobs hit into a double play, but Miguel Cabrera tied the
game with a single to center.
The start was delayed 48 minutes by rain. ... Yankees DH
Jason Giambi was removed from the lineup minutes before the first
pitch because of back spasms. ... ESPN agreed to carry Sunday
night's makeup game in the New York and Miami markets. Originally,
it was to be blacked out because of ESPN's national broadcast of
the game between the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox. ...
Attendance was 53,615.