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Mussina has been mighty vs. Minny
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09/29/2003  6:48 PM ET 
Mussina has been mighty vs. Minny
Veteran tries to continue Twins dominance in Game 1
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Mike Mussina (left) shares a light moment with New York Game 2 starter Andy Pettitte during Monday's workout at Yankee Stadium. (Kathy Willens/AP)
NEW YORK -- Mike Mussina is unable to offer a detailed explanation why he's 20-2 for his career against the Twins. He mentions longevity as one possibility for the best record by any active Major League pitcher against an opponent with at least 15 wins.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire offers up the idea that the Yankees right-hander is simply that good.

"All you have to do is read the numbers," Gardenhire said Monday. "He's one of those guys who has a little bit of funk. He's a veteran pitcher. He changes speeds. He can work out of the strike zone or in the strike zone, depending on how you're going. And he makes adjustments as he's going along through the game.

"He looks like at times he just ad-libs out there. If he sees something in a hitter, looks like [the hitter] is trying to do something, he makes an adjustment and makes the pitch. And that's what he's done against us."

Not only was Mussina an Oriole the last time the Twins beat him, but only one current Twin -- Denny Hocking -- was in the lineup that night. Mussina yielded five runs on 12 hits in seven innings that game, but still struck out 11. He has won eight straight over the Twins since.

Roger Clemens has more wins (23) against Minnesota, but he needed a few years' head start to get there.

    Mike Mussina   /   P
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185
Bats/Throws: R/R

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"Well, you know, there are certain clubs that over time you end up having good numbers against," Mussina said. "And it just so happens that this team is one of them. But I don't really think it means anything in this situation. These are the playoffs. Having good numbers against a team we've played two years in a row now in April, I don't think this is at all the same team as it was in April."

Even that's not a great help. Shannon Stewart, who was traded to Minnesota from Toronto in July, went 1-for-11 off Mussina this season and is 11-for-50 (.220) lifetime. Gardenhire said his team's best hope is to try to work into deeper counts instead of chasing, which is essentially hoping that Mussina doesn't have his best stuff.

Mussina's success against other teams, of course, provided just as much reasoning into his assignment to open the AL Division Series at Yankee Stadium. He won his first seven starts this year and lost once from Aug. 28 on. Beyond that, his postseason experience includes eight quality outings in 11 starts.

Jason Giambi can empathize with the Twins. The Yankees slugger recalls facing Mussina during his Oakland days.

"If he's hitting on all cylinders," Giambi said, "he's unbelievable. You can't really sit on anything because he can throw anything for a strike. He's never at a disadvantage, because he's not afraid to throw a 2-0 breaking ball or a 3-1 changeup. When you think, 'Finally I've got him, he's going to have to come to me,' he never does."

Fortunately for Giambi, he won't have to face Mussina on Tuesday -- or empathize with those who do.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.




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