08/18/2003 8:15 PM ET
Mussina AL Player of the Week
NEW YORK -- Mike Mussina was about as good as he could be last week, tossing a pair of gems to lead the Yankees to a 5-2 road trip. For his efforts, the right-hander was named the American League Pepsi Player of the Week.
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
Mussina hurled 17 shutout innings last week, tossing eight scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday in a 6-0 win, and a complete-game shutout on Sunday, defeating the Baltimore Orioles, 8-0.
"He couldn't have gotten any better than he was on this road trip," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "Throwing 17 scoreless innings, it's tough to improve on that. The way he did it, it looked like he was in complete command. He was able to paint both sides of the plate."
Mussina, who has earned Player of the Week honors three times in his career, allowed just seven hits and four walks in the two starts, striking out 14. Sunday's complete game was his first of the season, the 52nd of his career. The shutout was his 21st, six of them coming with the Yankees. Mussina is currently 14-6 with a 3.02 ERA this season.
One thing that has helped Mussina succeed of late is the use of the splitter, a pitch that he has not thrown much throughout his career. A few starts ago, Mussina was laboring through the early innings, so he decided to give the splitter a try. It worked, and he has continued to use it ever since.
"A couple of starts ago when he was having trouble, he decided to try it. He's gotten some outs with it," Torre said. "When he has three or four different weapons, it's a little tougher to hit off him. That's not to say they won't hit him, but they'll have to work harder."
Mussina has recently resembled the pitcher who started the season 7-0, not the one who struggled through the middle months of the season.
"The results are the same (as earlier in the season), but I'm pitching differently in terms of style and approach," Mussina said. "I'm mixing in a pitch or two that I didn't use back then. That allows you to be different, because you face some of these teams so many times over the course of a year."
Jorge Posada, who hit an AL-best .444 with two home runs and six RBIs this week was among the other candidates for the award. Other candidates for the weekly award were Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki, Adam Kennedy, Chone Figgins, Terrence Long, Travis Hafner, Travis Lee and Matthew LeCroy. Pitchers who appeared on the ballot were Tim Hudson, C.C. Sabathia and Freddy Garcia.
Mussina has made a habit out of getting hot in the last two months of the season over the course of his career, and this season looks to be no different.
"That's just the way it's been," Mussina said. "I get to August, my mechanics fit together and the arm strength is there to go out and throw 110 pitches. Everything just starts to fit together. There have been years where I'm good or not good in the beginning in the middle, but for the most part, toward the end of the year, I've been pretty consistent."
Said Torre: "I hope that continues."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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