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August 30, 2005

by SG

As Mike Mussina melted down in front of my eyes early in last night's game, I was starting to get very irritated that I was staying up until 2 am to watch.

Moose has struggled ever since I wrote about the return of his fastball, so I'd like to rescind those comments and forget they ever happened. Last night, he had no command, and after allowing two runs over the first 3 innings, he completely fell apart in the fourth. A walk, a stolen base, a bunt single and another walk loaded the bases with no outs. Rather than letting him fight through his struggles, Joe Torre made the smart move, going to Aaron Small in a tough spot with the bases loaded and no outs. Small got two grounders to second which both could have been double plays. On the first one it didn't happen because Ichiro is so damn fast. On the second one Robinson Cano's throw to Jeter was a little slow in developing and that allowed Willie Bloomquist to beat it out (in the mind of the umpire anyway, he looked out on the replay.)

Small eventually got out of the inning, but two runs had scored and it was 4-0 Mariners. Meanwhile, the Yankee offense had managed just one infield single over the first four innings against Ryan "Cy" Franklin. Leading off the fifth, Jason Giambi lifted another homer to RF to put the Yankees on the board. Bernie Williams walked, and Franklin looked to be on the verge of letting the Yankees back in the game. Unfortunately, in trying to "make things happen", a busted hit and run on a 3 ball count led to a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play. A hit and run on a 3 ball count is just plain dumb. If the pitch is out of the strike zone, the batter may still feel pressure to swing at it. Jorge Posada then doubled which may have scored Bernie if he hadn't been thrown out on the previous play. Fortunately, Robinson Cano came through with a 2 out single to score Posada from third (he'd advanced on a wild pitch), and the Yankees trailed 4-2.

In the sixth, Giambi came through again. It is nice to see him hitting with runners on base now. Amazing what a little lineup shuffle appears to have done. His three run homer gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead. Solo homers by Alex Rodriguez and Matt Lawton completed the final scoring in the game, and Aaron Small got a well-deserved win with 4 shutout innings, preserving the rest of the pen. Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera both closed out the game in fine fashion, and the Yankees got an important win on a day when all their playoff competitors also won.

There is some scuttlebutt that Mark Bellhorn will be wearing a Yankee uniform soon. I don't really know what to make of that. He's probably a better offensive player than Cano right now, but not as good of a fielder. If his role is to platoon with Cano against lefties or take Felix Escalona's spot as the backup infielder, I think he's an ok pickup. Who knows, he may have some inside information on some of his former team's tendencies that could help steal a game or two as well.

Chien-ming Wang made a rehab start last night in Columbus, pitching 3 innings of 1 run ball, 48 pitches. The question will be how he feels today and tomorrow, but the return of Wang could be huge.