NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Mussina has spent much of his 18-year career near the top of the American League leaderboard.
Few expected him to get back there at age 39, however.
Movin' Up The Charts
With his single in the third inning on Wednesday, Derek Jeter passed Mickey Mantle for sole possession of third place on the all-time Yankees hits list.
Mussina tied for the AL lead in wins, Derek Jeter passed Mickey Mantle on the Yankees career hits list and New York played a crisp, compact ballgame in beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 on Wednesday night."A lot of people assumed that my best stuff was behind me," Mussina said. "I still know how to pitch."With catcher Jorge Posada back from the disabled list but not in the starting lineup yet, backup Jose Molina gave New York an unexpected boost on offense. Wilson Betemit homered off Jesse Litsch (7-2) and the Yankees snapped a three-game skid by handing Toronto only its seventh loss in 22 games.Mussina (9-4) pitched six strong innings to match Los Angeles Angels left-hander Joe Saunders for the league lead in victories. Cleveland's Cliff Lee also had eight going into his start Wednesday night at Texas."I don't think it's a fluke that he has nine wins because he's pitched very well," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "I've been impressed."Jeter, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and Hideki Matsui hit RBI singles for the Yankees to back Mussina, 8-1 in his last nine starts.Jeter's single put New York ahead and gave him 2,416 hits, good for third place on the franchise list behind Babe Ruth (2,518) and Lou Gehrig (2,721)."Sounds funny, doesn't it?" Jeter said. "It's always cool when you start talking about those types of names. My name doesn't fit up there."Mussina has been helped by generous run support and effective bullpen work all season, but the savvy right-hander took charge himself this time out.Baffling the Blue Jays with sharp curves and late movement, Mussina struck out a season-high six and walked one in his 259th win -- one behind Hall of Famer Ted Lyons for 38th place."He was in control the whole way," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "His stuff is not as good as it used to be, but that's what the good ones do. They take what they've got and make it work for them."One night after Joba Chamberlain lasted only 2 1/3 innings in his first big-league start and Yankees pitchers walked a season-worst 10, Mussina, the old pro, showed how it's done.He worked around a leadoff double in the fourth and yielded five hits, including Scott Rolen's two-out RBI double in the sixth on his 100th pitch.It's the 14th time in the past 15 years that Mussina has nine wins before the All-Star break, but this is the fastest he's ever reached the mark. He didn't earn his ninth win last season until Sept. 12."I've had some breaks, I have to admit," Mussina said. "But for the most part, I feel pretty good about the fact that I've kept us in games."Ross Ohlendorf, Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera each worked a scoreless inning to finish it, helping Mussina improve to 24-12 against Toronto -- including 15-5 with the Yankees.Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas left in the sixth with tightness in his lower back and was replaced by Curtis Thigpen.Girardi put the slow-footed Molina in motion from first base on a 3-2 pitch in the third, and it paid off as Molina went to third on Damon's one-out single to left. Jeter followed with his RBI single, moving ahead of Mantle.Always reluctant to talk about his personal accomplishments, the Yankees captain received a huge ovation and finally waved his helmet to the crowd of 51,151 while blowing a bubble as he stood on first base. The fans then chanted Jeter's name, with Bobby Abreu digging in at the plate.The run ended Litsch's scoreless streak at 18 innings. The right-hander, 5-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his previous six starts, lost for the first time since April 22 at Tampa Bay."I struggled with my command, and that's my game," Litsch said. "The sinker was running off the plate all day."Betemit, starting at first base for ailing Jason Giambi (foot), hit a solo homer in the fourth. Robinson Cano doubled to snap a 4-for-30 skid, Molina walked and Cabrera's RBI single made it 3-0.Rolen's double cut it to 3-1 in the sixth, but Molina doubled in the sixth to chase Litsch and then scored on Damon's single off Shawn Camp.Matsui, the AL's leading hitter, added a run-scoring single in the seventh off lefty Scott Downs.
Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a broken left wrist. He is taking batting practice and could be back within 10 days, Gibbons said. ... Posada didn't start because he caught the previous two days while rehabilitating his throwing shoulder at extended spring training in Florida. Posada had been out since April 28 with right rotator cuff tendinitis. He is slated to catch Chien-Ming Wang in Thursday's series finale.