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August 9, 2005

Welcome back
by SG

It's a rare player for me that I continue to root for once they leave a Yankee uniform. Last night, one of those rare players was back on the mound at Yankee Stadium to face his former team. I was fortunate enough to attend Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez's major league debut against Tampa back in 1998.

El Duque left that Yankees this offseason when they would not agree to his request for a 2 year contract and a guaranteed starting spot. As disappointing as it was to see him leave, he was a pretty big injury risk. There's also the issue of his age, which no one seems to really know. Anyway, the Yankees decided to go younger and healthier in signing Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano for $61 million, but I digress.

He's not what he once was, and in the first inning I almost felt bad for him. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano smoked the ball to lead off the game, but a pair of incredible catches by Aaron Rowand retired them both. Then a walk to Gary Sheffield, a HR by Alex Rodriguez, and a HBP to Hideki Matsui and it seemed like the Yankees were going to embarrass him. However, he settled down to allow only 3 hits and 1 more run in pitching six innings.

Mike Mussina's style has changed as he's lost some velocity to mimic that of El Duque. He'll throw a variety of pitches anywhere in the count and keep hitters off-balance. He's adapted pretty well to the change, with respectable numbers not far off his performance as a Yankee. However, as the lone established and healthy Yankee starter right now, the Yankees need him to win games.

Moose rebounded well after a disastrous fifth inning last time out against Cleveland, although he had another bad fifth inning, but only allowed two runs over six innings, unfortunately requiring 122 pitches to do it. I'm not a pitch count alarmist typically, but I do think that given the Yankees' currently depleted pitching staff, this may have been a risk not worth taking. Let's hope it turns out to be a non-issue.

Paul Quantrill Tanyon Sturtze pitched a shutout 7th, despite almost getting his head torn off by a line drive single up the middle. Joe Torre claimed that Mel Stottlemyre noticed some mechanical flaws in Sturtze's delivery which he tweaked. I think it was a taxi driver, not Mel, but whatever the case, he looked better. Tom Gordon pitched an easy shutout eighth and the world did not end. And finally, the incomparable Mariano Rivera closed another game out.

This was a very big win against a very good team. Let's hope the Yankees can at least split one of the next 2 games. At this point they need to win as many series as possible.