Angels run into oldie but goodie
NEW YORK -- Mike Mussina looked a whole lot better to Mark Teixeira from a stadium seat in Camden Yards, when Mussina was pitching for the Orioles from 1992 to 2000 and Teixeira was a teenage fan growing up in Baltimore.
“I enjoyed watching him as a kid,” said Teixeira, the Angels’ new first baseman. “I don’t necessarily enjoy facing him now.”
Not when Mussina, 39, is dealing like he did Saturday, when he gave up two runs -- one earned -- and two hits in seven innings to lead the New York Yankees to an 8-2 victory over the Angels on, fittingly, Old Timers Day in Yankee Stadium.
Mussina might be older than two of the ex-Yankees who participated in Saturday’s pregame festivities, Aaron Small and Homer Bush, but what the right-hander has lost in velocity he has made up for with cunning and command.
Skillfully mixing five pitches, Mussina retired the last 17 batters he faced to end the Angels’ winning streak at five games and improve to 14-7 with a 3.44 earned-run average. He needed only 51 pitches to blank the Angels from the third through seventh innings.
“When he was young and had a little more velocity, he still had great command with all his pitches, that’s why he was a perennial Cy Young Award candidate,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.
“Right now, he’s adapted and learned what he needs to do with not quite as much fuzz, but he still has that uncanny command and is able to change speeds and make pitches. We didn’t see many pitches over the heart of the plate.”
Teixeira didn’t see anything over the plate in the first inning, walking on four pitches, but that was probably by design.
“He’s not trying to attack you in the zone, he wants to see how far you’ll go,” said Teixeira, who was hitless in three at-bats. “He showed that in my first at-bat. He threw four straight balls, all real close. He wanted to see where the strike zone was and if I was going to chase. He lives on the corners.”
And hitters usually die there.
“You want to be aggressive,” Teixeira said. “If you sit back and let him dictate the count and use all his pitches, you’re going to be down 0-2 and 1-2 a lot.”
Mussina’s counterpart, Jered Weaver, wasn’t nearly as sharp. The Angels’ right-hander gave up four home runs, a two-run blast to Wilson Betemit in the second inning and solo shots to Bobby Abreu in the third, Jose Molina in the fifth and Alex Rodriguez in the sixth.
The four homers given up matched a career high for Weaver, who gave up four homers in 4 2/3 innings against Seattle on Aug. 29, 2006. The right-hander had given up only one homer in 33 1/3 innings of his previous six starts.
“A couple of them were on good pitches, and they put good swings on them,” Weaver said. “The one to Betemit wasn’t a bad pitch, fastball on the outside corner, and the one to A-Rod was right where I wanted it, a heater away. You have to tip your hat.”
Weaver (9-9) struck out the side in the first inning, but he needed 23 pitches to do so, Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter extending him in nine-pitch at-bats.
“It was a little frustrating,” Weaver said. “You try to put someone away, you get ahead, and they foul a bunch of pitches off.”
By the time Weaver was pulled in the sixth inning, he had thrown 99 pitches.
“Jered’s pitch counts have been elevated,” Scioscia said. “He’s trying to get early-count outs, and sometimes he does, but a lot of times he has to work hard for outs. I don’t think it affects him inning to inning, but I think it affects him as the game gets longer.
“He’s thrown a lot of pitches to each hitter. Not only might he tire a little earlier, but these guys have seen a lot of pitches, and there are only so many things you can do the third and fourth time around.”
Mussina continued a cooling trend for the Angels, who, after amassing 18 hits in Thursday’s 12-6 win over the Yankees, managed four hits Friday and three Saturday.
“We’ve been scoring a lot of runs lately,” Teixeira said. “The law of averages is going to catch up to you.”