Mussina mows down White Sox to collect 252nd career win

CHICAGO (AP) -- He struggled last season and wasn't looking good this year, so Mike Mussina understood the criticism. Consider this his rebuttal.

Mussina pitched seven strong innings and moved ahead of Bob Gibson on the career wins list, and the New York Yankees won again without Alex Rodriguez, beating the Chicago White Sox 6-4 on Wednesday night.

"People always doubt you," Mussina said. "When you're past 35 years old, every time you give up two hits in an inning, they doubt you. That's just how it is."

With each off balance swing and weak grounder or fly ball, Mussina made this point. Don't count him out.

Throwing mostly two-seam fastballs, Mussina had the White Sox flailing away all night while his catcher, Jorge Posada, had a big night at the plate.

He had four hits, including a career-high three doubles, and drove in two runs. A sore right arm prevented him from starting at catcher for two weeks, but he was behind the plate for the second straight game.

While Rodriguez missed his second game because of a strained quadriceps and the birth of his second daughter, the Yankees matched a season high with their third straight win and Mussina earned his 252nd victory on his third try. That gave him sole possession of 42nd place on baseball's wins list and put the Yankees in position for a three-game sweep of the AL Central leaders.

They'll need Phil Hughes to get on track after four rough starts, which is what Mussina (2-3) did after losing two straight to Boston. The 39-year-old allowed two runs and four hits while striking out three and walking one in his longest outing this season. He threw 101 pitches after reaching the 100 mark just twice last year and his ERA dropped from 5.75 to 4.94.

"I only got 100 twice last year? Wow, must be getting old," Mussina joked.

After getting a go-ahead grand slam by Bobby Abreu in the seventh and a three-run shot by Johnny Damon in the eighth during Tuesday's 9-5 win, the Yankees went with the same batting order and knocked out Javier Vazquez (3-2) during a three-run sixth.

The White Sox scored two runs in the eighth off LaTroy Hawkins, who walked Nick Swisher with one out and allowed a single by Orlando Cabrera. Billy Traber came in to face Jim Thome, who singled in a run and Paul Konerko followed with a sacrifice fly off Mariano Rivera that made it 6-4 before Jermaine Dye popped to short.

Rivera then pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save in as many chances.

Damon, who had two hits and scored twice, drove a two-run double to left-center with one out in the sixth and came around on a single to center by Derek Jeter that made it 6-1 and chased Vazquez.

That was plenty for Mussina, who lasted just three innings in his previous start against Boston.

Mussina had not pitched more than six innings in his first four starts, but he found his rhythm in the ballpark where he debuted for Baltimore back in August 1991 and improved to 17-16 lifetime against Chicago. Solo homers by Joe Crede in the fifth and Carlos Quentin in the seventh aside, the White Sox never threatened against him.

"He was probably throwing between 85 and 87, but he can make that look hard when he's throwing those changeups and slow curveballs," Konerko said. "That's pitching. Look it up. that's what it looks like."

Posada said Mussina had "all the stuff," although he accidentally blurted something different when Joe Girardi visited the mound following Quentin's homer. The manager asked if Mussina had anything left. The catcher responded "nothing," and Girardi started to signal toward the bullpen.

"Nothing's wrong is what I was trying to say," Posada said. "I went, 'No, no, no."

Mussina stayed in and retired Crede to end the inning.

While there was nothing wrong with him, Vazquez wasn't right.

His problems started when he walked Robinson Cano and Jason Giambi with two outs in the second, leading to an RBI infield single with the bases loaded by Melky Cabrera. That drove in the first run, and Posada added a two-run double in the fifth that made it 3-0.

Vazquez gave up a season-high 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings after winning three straight starts. He struck out three and walked three, after issuing just two over his previous three outings

Rodriguez probably won't play until this weekend's series at Cleveland even though he's scheduled to rejoin the team in Chicago on Thursday.

The AL MVP, Rodriguez left Sunday's game against the Baltimore Orioles with a strained right quadriceps and had treatment in New York the following day. He then headed to Miami, where his wife gave birth Monday night.

Game notes
Giambi was fine after leaving Tuesday's game because a hard groundball deflected off his right thumb in the eighth inning. ... Girardi had a pregame guest, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "We talked baseball," Girardi said. ... White Sox SS Cabrera made his first error since Sept. 12, 2007, at Baltimore when he dropped Hideki Matsui's pop fly in left field leading off the second inning. Cabrera made 11 errors with the Los Angeles Angels last season while winning his second Gold Glove.