Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Yankees, Mussina mystify Royals: New York 1, Kansas City 0

April 6, 2001

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— Mike Mussina fit right in to the New York Yankees' star-studded pitching staff.

Mussina followed strong starts by Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte by pitching 72/3 scoreless innings in a sparkling debut for New York in a 1-0 win over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

"There were a lot of places I could have gone where they would have sent me out as the opening-day starter and expected me to win 22 games," Mussina said. "That's not the case here. Pitching behind Roger and especially Pettitte, being left-handed, really helps me. I hope it keeps up all year."

Mussina, who signed an $88.5 million, six-year contract in November as a free agent, was cool and efficient, using a lively fastball, an effective changeup and his knuckle curve to shut down the Royals on five hits.

"He can throw any pitch for a strike and that makes it very hard for a batter to sit on a pitch," catcher Jorge Posada said. "He's good and he knows it. He's fun to catch."

Paul O'Neill hit a solo homer in the first inning for the only run the Yankees needed off Dan Reichert (0-1). The three-time World Series champions have opened the season 3-0 for the first time since 1995.

Predictably, starting pitching has been the biggest reason why. Clemens, Pettitte and Mussina have allowed four runs and 18 hits in 23 innings for a 3-0 record and a 1.57 ERA, with Clemens allowing three runs and Pettitte one.

"Mussina was picture perfect," Royals manager Tony Muser said. "We saw three pretty good pitchers with three pretty good starts. If they keep pitching like that, they'll be tough to beat."

Kansas City, which scored just five runs in the three-game series, started the season 0-3 for the sixth time in 10 years.

Mussina, who spent the first 10 years of his career in Baltimore, didn't seemed fazed at all by his Yankees debut. He spent pregame time as he customarily does, with a crossword puzzle.

The Royals had more trouble with Mussina's tricky stuff than he did with the puzzle.

"I've been coming here for 10 years, but it was different being in the other dugout knowing these very knowledgeable fans were on my side instead of against me," Mussina said.

Mussina retired his first five batters before facing his only trouble with two outs in the second. Mark Quinn, who entered 6-for-9 with two homers off Mussina, singled and went to third on Dee Brown's double. Mussina then retired A.J. Hinch on a comebacker and didn't allow another runner to reach scoring position.

Mussina struck out three and didn't walk a batter before leaving to a standing ovation with a runner on first and two outs in the eighth inning. Mussina threw 65 of 96 pitches for strikes.

"He's not doing a high-wire act out there," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He diffuses the situation whenever they try to mount an attack. It takes the wind out of their sails."

Mariano Rivera got four outs for his first save of the season.

Mussina, the least-supported starter in the American League last season, didn't get much offense from his new team either.

After Reichert retired the first two batters of the game, O'Neill hit a 2-2 pitch into the right-field seats for his first homer and the Yankees' fifth of the series.

"When you make 100 pitches in a game you're going to make one or two mistakes," Reichert said. "That's how it goes. You can't do anything about it."

New York barely threatened after that but didn't need to because of Mussina.

After Royals starters Jeff Suppan and Blake Stein allowed 13 runs in 62/3 innings in the first two games, Reichert allowed just four hits and one run in six innings.

Reichert was hit in the back of the right shoulder on a line drive by Bernie Williams in the fourth inning but stayed in the game.

Notes: Royals 2B Carlos Febles missed the game after sustaining a bruised right knee Wednesday in a collision with RF Jermaine Dye. Dye, who bruised his nose, played DH. ... Kansas City's Joe Randa went 0-for-3 against Mussina and is 2-for-25 in his career against the right-hander. ... The game was played in 2 hours, 16 minutes. ... The Yankees had their first 1-0 win since Aug. 7, 1999, at Seattle, and the first at home since July, 5, 1998, against Baltimore.

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