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Mussina pitches eight innings, gives up six hits

5/2/2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- When Mike Mussina struck out All-Stars Ichiro
Suzuki, Randy Winn and Bret Boone in order to start the game, it
was fairly obvious: The Moose was loose once again.

Mussina matched a career-high with his eighth straight win,
backed by home runs from Alfonso Soriano and Jorge Posada, and the
New York Yankees defeated the Seattle Mariners 2-1 Thursday night.

"I threw the ball well in the first inning and tried to keep it
going and keep it close," he said.

Mussina (6-0) became the first Yankees pitcher to win his first
six starts since Bob Turley won seven straight in 1958 in his Cy
Young Award season.

Mussina leads the majors in victories and his nine strikeouts
boosted his AL-leading total to 51. Showing exceptional control of
his curve, he gave up six hits and walked none in eight innings,
lowering his ERA to 1.60.

"When you're pitching with guys the caliber of (Roger) Clemens,
(Andy) Pettitte, (David) Wells and (Jeff) Weaver, you've got to
turn it up a notch or you're going to get left behind," he said.

Twice before Mussina won eight in a row in the regular season,
most recently with Baltimore in 1997.

Mariners manager Bob Melvin has seen plenty of Mussina over the
years. Back in 1991, Melvin was Baltimore's catcher when Mussina
made his major league debut.

"This year he's been phenomenal, throwing all of his pitches
and getting them where he wants them," Melvin said.

"He's a tough guy to set on when he has everything working.
When he's got his command, he's a tough customer," he said.

On a night when Joel Pineiro (2-2) was sharp for Seattle, the
Yankees relied on Mussina's pitching and Mariano Rivera's first
save of the season. They also needed Soriano's 10th homer and
Posada's all-around play.

Posada produced at the plate, hitting a tying home run in the
fifth, and also behind it. The catcher pounced on Winn's bunt to
throw out the speedy Suzuki at second base in the fourth, then
threw a perfect strike to cut down Winn trying to steal in the
sixth.

In the seventh, Posada raced back to the box seats and reached
into the stands to catch Mark McLemore's foul pop. In the eighth,
Posada threw out Suzuki when he tried to steal second with two
outs.

"My arm is feeling a lot better, that's the bottom line,"
Posada said. "I have a lot more zip on the ball."

Yankees manager Joe Torre can see a difference.

"He seems so much more calm. I think he's developing a lot more
confidence," he said.

Rivera, activated this week after being on the disabled list all
season, pitched a perfect ninth. He did it against the middle of
the Mariners' order.

The Yankees won for the 11th time in 14 games. They also took
two of three from Seattle, a rare feat for them -- this marked the
first time in the regular season New York had won a series against
Seattle at Yankee Stadium since 1999. Then again, the Yankees beat
the Mariners in the AL championship series in 2000 and 2001.

Neither pitcher permitted a runner past first base until the
fifth, when both teams scored a run.

The Mariners nicked Mussina with two outs when McLemore, Jeff
Cirillo and Dan Wilson hit successive singles. That is the lone
earned run allowed by Mussina in 24 innings at home this year.

Posada pulled the Yankees even when he led off the bottom half
with his eighth home run.

Soriano pulled a drive down the left-field line to lead off the
sixth.

"They were both mistakes," Pineiro said.

Game notes
Nick Johnson drew a walk in his 15th straight game. That's
the longest streak by a Yankees player since Willie Randolph did it
for 17 games in a row in 1980-81. ... Suzuki was 1-for-10 in the
series and had not hit a ball out of the infield until singling
twice. After getting a major league record 450 hits in his first
two seasons, he's batting just .252 this season. ... At 22-6, the
Yankees have not lost any of their nine series, winning eight of
them and splitting the other. The last time they had such a
successful streak to start the season was 1955, when they went
4-0-7 in their first 11 series.

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