Mussina's 10 strikeouts:
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NEW YORK -- How can you start a World Series game and be an afterthought? Just ask Mike Mussina. The Yankees starter gave a good effort on Thursday night, but he ended up being forgotten. That's perfectly understandable, though, when you consider the incredible comeback that his team composed.
|Mike Mussina pitched eight solid innings and gave up only two runs in Game 5.
After the game, in his session with the media, Mussina was never asked about his pitching performance. Instead, he only answered questions about Scott Brosius and his ninth-inning game-tying home run.
"You go from being very dejected," Mussina said, "And all of a sudden you're right back in the game."
Well, figuratively speaking, at least. Mussina exited the game in the eighth inning, and he was sitting in the dugout when Brosius went deep. That homer took Mussina out of the line score, taking him off the hook as the potential losing pitcher.
How did he get in that position? Mussina allowed only five hits, but two of them were solo homers. Those crucial shots by Steve Finley and Rod Barajas represented the game's only runs -- until Brosius took care of business.
Over the course of his evening, the Moose struck out 10 batters, and then he handed the ball to Ramiro Mendoza in the ninth inning. After that, he watched the rest of the story unfold, getting as wrapped up in the game as everyone else.
"I got dressed and went back out in the dugout for the last three innings of the game," Mussina said. "You just have to be there. It's the World Series."
Of course, this is Mussina's first trip to the Fall Classic, but he's been watching New York's incredible composure for more than a decade. What is his perspective on it, and how does he feel to be a part of it now?
"I know I'm a lot grayer than I was two days ago," he joked.
"These guys, for some reason, believe that they can come back no matter what the situation," Mussina said. "They have done it so many times, and the more it happens the more they feed off that."
GAME FOUR FLASHBACKS: In the aftermath of Wednesday's Game 4 comeback win, Yankees manager Joe Torre was asked what made his team tick at this time of year, in particular Derek Jeter and Tino Martinez, whose home runs gave New York a 4-3 win.
The two players, who were a combined 1-for-24 in the World Series before their dramatic blasts on Wednesday, have been known to come through in the clutch for Torre's Yankees. They did so again in Game 4, leaving their skipper with nothing but compliments for the two superstars.
"He's had bad days and bounced back," said Torre of Jeter. "He's durable, both emotionally and physically. He has not been 100 percent, but I'm not sure a lot of players play this game 100 percent anyway. If you play it every day, it's tough to shake an injury once you get one. He came up to me at 10:30 (Wednesday) night and he said 'You only have an hour and a half left of your contract; what do you think?' Like he had nothing else on his mind. He's a great stress reliever for everybody in that dugout and you look in his eyes and he's got that hunger. You don't teach that, it's something that you're born with."
With all of the hype that surrounds Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, the AL's two power-hitting shortstops, Torre said that Jeter's overall game suits the Yankees just fine.
"There's something to this kid, that when you try to compare him with A-Rod and Nomar, they seem to be the three glamour guys at shortstop," Torre said. "He may not be able to hit for power with either one of those two guys, may not have as good an arm, may not do this, may not do that as well, but the whole package is pretty special. I mean, he plays in this town, which is not easy to do."
As for Torre's other Game 4 hero, the manager has said all year that Martinez's numbers have been even better when you consider the number of important home runs he has hit, not just the total number. His most recent home run may have been his biggest in his six-year run with the Bronx Bombers -- one that may be nearing an end as the first baseman approaches free agency.
"We keep being reminded about the free agent status," Torre said. "I don't think anybody has gotten bigger hits or hit bigger home runs than Tino has for the six years I've been here. He's been terrific. He does not like the attention. There are a lot of guys on this club that really are more shy than you would imagine. But he certainly has been a huge, huge presence for us. He and Paul O'Neill, and I don't want to really single out these two guys, but they are as passionate as you get about the game. They hate losing, like most of the guys do."
The two home runs were hit against D-Backs closer Byung-Hyun Kim, who was making his World Series debut. Kim became the latest in the long line of closers to be victimized by the Yankees, joining Kazuhiro Sasaki, Armando Benitez and Trevor Hoffman, among others.
"Last night, it surprised me," Torre said. "But when you think about it, they have done it so often that you should not be totally surprised. I think the fact that we've played in some World Series games, guys seem to rise to the occasion. We know it takes a special player to play in New York emotionally, because it is not easy. When they get in the game they just seem to be able to focus. There's no practice that we give them to do this. It's just been a remarkable run that we've had, and I can't give you that answer."
GOTTA' GO TO MO: Mariano Rivera earned his second career World Series win on Wednesday, the fifth playoff victory overall for the Yankees closer. Rivera threw a 1-2-3 10th inning, setting the stage for Jeter's dramatic game-winner.
But what if Jeter hadn't ended the game in the first extra frame? How long could Rivera, who threw two innings in his Game 3 save on Tuesday, have stayed in the game?
"He was probably going to pitch one more inning last night," Torre said. "I certainly want to limit him to one inning tonight. His pitch count has been pretty good, even though he's pitched three innings in the last two games. I think I'd like to just hopefully be in a position to just use him one inning."
Torre didn't have that opportunity, as Rivera threw two scoreless innings in New York's 12-inning Game 5 win. Rivera did have to battle out of one jam, escaping a bases-loaded, one-out threat.
"What he runs out there every day is pretty good," said Mike Stanton. "But he's got an extra gear. When things like that start happening, it makes him mad and he picks it up a notch."
Rivera, who has converted 24 consecutive postseason saves, has been tremendous in the 2001 playoffs. He is 2-0 with five saves in 10 games, sporting a stunning 0.61 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting just .136 against him, and have struck out 11 times against just one walk.
As much as Torre tries to conserve his closer's innings in the regular season, this time of year he simply throws his best guys out there over and over again.
"That's the first thing that came to my mind when Tino hit the ball out of the ballpark," Torre said. "We tied the game and Mo's in the game and I think it gave us the advantage at that point in time. Again if it goes past that, I'm not sure how effective he's going to be, but we didn't get a chance to find out. He's like a regular player for us."
Mark Feinsand is the site reporter for Yankees.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Yankees.com site manager Spencer Fordin contributed to this report.