Mussina stays cool, efficient on hot day
Veteran righty goes eight strong innings, allows only two runs
NEW YORK -- The way Mike Mussina talked after pitching Monday was easy, part of a smooth and relaxed conversation he had with reporters while holding a soda cup in front of his locker.
It was like the way he threw during eight innings earlier. Efficient and approximate with his pitches, Mussina yielded just two earned runs, seven hits and walked none. It came in the Yankees' 3-2 loss to the Royals, though.
The eight frames were the longest he's stayed on the mound since May 31, 2006, a game that ended with a win.
"Things were rolling around pretty smoothly," Mussina said. "I can't complain about it."
He didn't, even though a victory for Mussina would have given him 10 wins. He's never done that within his first 14 starts of a season during his 18-year career.
"It was a good day," he said. "It's just a shame we couldn't scratch out a few more runs to win a ballgame."
Mussina left with the game tied at 2 and was relieved by closer Mariano Rivera, who gave up the winning run on a homer by Jose Guillen. Mussina remained 9-4 after the no-decision, lowering his ERA from 4.01 to 3.82. He will likely remember Monday's game, one of his finest outings in the season, but he won't put much stock in the fact that his 39-year-old body hadn't lasted this long in more than two years.
Or that he did it with the temperature in mid-90s.
"It's not a milestone," Mussina said. "It's nice to know I can still go out there and be efficient on a warm day, command my stuff for that long and get people out. It was a tight game, and I gave us a chance, but we didn't pull it off today."
Mussina threw 89 pitches, 65 of them for strikes. He made stops to the air-conditioned clubhouse when he wasn't on the mound so he could keep cool.
One of his few mistakes was the pitch that broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning. It was a first-pitch curveball that the Royals' Miguel Olivo smacked for a two-run homer, and the curve had worked on other batters on first pitches that day, Mussina said.
"I thought I had good control of most of it today, but I left one up for a strike that he hit out of the park," Mussina said. "Other than that, I was able to dump a first strike when I wanted to, throw it down the zone when I wanted to, get the fastball in or out or elevate it when I wanted to do that."
Including Olivo's home run, Mussina yielded four hits in the seventh. But manager Joe Girardi noted Mussina's hitless eighth inning, the final frame in his solid outing.
"I don't know if it's considered a waste," Girardi said. "But it's a game you feel you should probably win. We didn't score."
Willie Bans is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.