10/20/2003 7:16 PM ET
Moose gets loose for Game 3
Relief stint in ALCS gives Mussina confidence
Mike Mussina press conference
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Fish banking on Beckett
MIAMI -- Mike Mussina didn't hide his frustration after his Game 4 loss to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.
Irked by a lack of run support, Mussina called out his offense for not delivering in a game in which he had pitched well enough to win.
It was the third straight playoff loss for Mussina, the third one in which he had gone at least five innings and given up no more than four runs. It didn't sit well.
Yankees manager Joe Torre didn't seem to mind, however, saying Mussina was as much of a team guy as anyone else in the New York clubhouse.
Two days later, Mussina proved that and more, entering Game 7 in the fourth inning with the Yankees trailing, 4-0, and with men on first and third.
Mussina struck out Jason Varitek and got Johnny Damon to ground into an inning-ending double play.
He then pitched two more scoreless innings, stopping the bleeding and allowing the Yankees to get back in a game they would eventually win on Aaron Boone's 11th-inning homer.
For a guy struggling to find the answers, maybe his first career relief stint did the trick.
"Hopefully it did a great deal for Moose's confidence," Torre said.
"I don't care how long you've been pitching, I don't care how much money you make. When you contribute like he did the other day -- we would not be down here right now unless it was for him."
The funniest part of the story is that it wasn't even supposed to happen.
Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre told Torre after the Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the series that Mussina would throw a side session before Game 6 just in case there was a Game 7.
But it didn't end there.
"Mel also told him that we weren't gonna bring him in with men on base," Torre said. "He reminded us of that afterwards. I said, 'What do you want? We lied to you. What can I tell you?' "
It seemed funny after the fact, but Mussina admitted it was a significantly different feeling in the moment.
"Well, the experience itself was unique and a little scary and probably a few other things," Mussina said. "I made a couple good pitches and got a break with a double-play ball from Damon. It just turned out to be a big spot in the game.
"I asked him to make sure to remind me next year that I can be in the rotation again, because that's what I like to do, and not come out of the pen with first and third, nobody out. They told me it wasn't gonna be that way."
Mussina doesn't have to worry about it right now.
He'll take the ball for Game 3 of the World Series in Pro Player Stadium in Miami and will give his offense another chance to shine behind him.
Torre said there's no reason to read much into his veteran right-hander's previous results.
"I think Mike really wasn't concerned about the lack of wins, just the fact in the games that he pitches, we didn't win," Torre said. "I think Mike is pretty much a victim of not scoring any runs for him.
"Sometimes he gets a little frustrated that he's not able to do all those things. So I think if there's any pressure, I don't think it's the fact that it's the postseason. I think it's just more the fact that it's Mike Mussina and the way he goes about things."
"I think that three-inning stint, especially the first inning, did a world for his confidence. Hopefully it helps us tomorrow."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.