World Series 2001 |
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World Series 2001
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10/28/2001 05:29 AM ET
Mussina: 'I was just awful'
Mike Mussina gave up two home runs in Game 1 against the Diamondbacks.
Game highlights: 56k | 300k

PHOENIX -- Mike Mussina was far gone from Saturday's Game 1 of the World Series by the time it became reduced to laugher status. But his impact on the horrendous showing by the Yankees lingered deep into the night. As deep as the Diamondbacks were taking Mussina in the early innings.

Fact is, the Yankees were 16-1 in their last 17 World Series games for no bigger reason than the ability of their starting pitchers to set the tone time after time.

It's just that the tone Mussina set in this 9-1 Diamondbacks romp was bad, very bad.

How bad was it? Every bit as awful as Mussina made it sound.

"I was just awful," said Mussina. "Every ball I threw was in the middle of the plate. You just can't go out there with that."

Least of all, not when the opposition has Curt Schilling on the mound.

Against all odds, the Yankees actually scraped out a run against ridiculously hot Schilling in the top of the first inning, thanks to an RBI double by Bernie Williams.

Handing Mussina a lead before he ever threw a pitch is something the Yankees probably thought they could and would jump on.

Instead, it was Craig Counsell -- the Diamondbacks' No. 2 hitter --jumping all over a fat Mussina pitch and putting it over the right-field wall to tie it at one. So much for enjoying the lead. So much for momentum. So much for the Yankees winning Game 1 of the World Series for a fourth consecutive season.

In the third inning, Mussina imploded. He hit Tony Womack. He served up a meatball to Luis Gonzalez, who plastered it deep into the right-field seats. All nine Diamondbacks came to the plate that inning, and four of them scored.

By the fourth inning, Mussina was in the shower. The Yankees were then trotting in pitchers like Randy Choate and seldom-used utility players like Enrique Wilson. Who could have predicted this?

"I'm always surprised when something like that happens," said Yankees Manager Joe Torre. "(Mussina) could not locate the pitches the way he wanted to, and we paid the price basically."

And a stiff price it was. This was the first time the Yankees lost Game 1 of the World Series since 1996. And Mussina's outing was arguably the worst by a Yankee starter in World Series play since Andy Pettitte was drilled by the Braves (2 2/3 innings, seven earned runs) in Game 1 of that '96 Fall Classic.

The Yankees came back to win that series, even after losing the first two at home. Now they hope to salvage a split in Sunday's Game 2, when Pettitte battles the menacing Randy Johnson.

It isn't outlandish that the Diamondbacks won the game. Not with Schilling pitching. But for it to turn out this brutally?

For Mussina's results were every bit as impressive as Schilling these last few weeks, if not quite as spectacular. In his 11 starts heading into this one, the righty was 8-1 with a 1.32 ERA.

However, the guy who ran off those numbers was fierce on the corners. Impeccable with his control. Nasty with his bender.

What happened to that guy anyway? Turns out he got lost somewhere between the bullpen and the mound.

"I didn't have any trouble warming up," said Mussina.

Problem for the Yankees was, neither did the D-Backs hitters.

Counsell tried to be diplomatic about the pitch he pummeled into the seats. But there was no way around the obvious. Mussina gave him a glorified batting practice fastball and the pesky little second baseman cranked it.

"I think it was basically right down the middle," said Counsell, "I think I put a good swing on it."

Uh, yeah. So did Gonzalez, who hit 57 homers this season in large part because he destroys offerings over the heart of the plate. It's just that Mussina doesn't usually offer such inviting bait. If he did, the Yankees wouldn't have inked him for some $88.5 million over six seasons.

Everyone can have a bad day. Even the best of pitchers. But it tastes a lot worse when it happens in your first World Series start.

True, two of the five runs Mussina allowed were unearned, thanks to an error by right fielder David Justice. But Mussina knows full well the onus was on him. He didn't have the stuff to keep his team in the game.

It was so bad that Mussina was left almost dizzy from the bludgeoning. He was asked to recall some of the pitches he hung in the thankless third.

"I honestly can't remember," Mussina said. "It was just so bad that I don't remember."

And the stuff he does remember? Oh, he'd just love to forget all of it.

"I couldn't throw a breaking ball for a strike very often," Mussina said. "I don't think I threw more than one or two cutters for a strike. It's not something I'm going to remember fondly. Not just because of what happened but because of the stuff I was trying to get people out with."

But on to the good news. One game does not a World Series make.

"These guys are resilient," Mussina said. "we've come back from tough situations before this yearh. We've come back from pretty good beatings and be able to forget about it. That's why this team has done what they've done."

It should also be noted, however, that they've also done what they've done by getting precious few outings like the one Mussina had in Game 1.

Ian Browne is a reporter for

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and are not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.