A-Rod goes deep twice in routMussina, riding huge wave of support, pitches into eighth
It doesn't matter.
Show Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees the threads of Cleveland, and domination has ensued.
So perhaps it came as no surprise that Rodriguez laced a pair of two-run homers and the Bombers shoved aside the American League Central's first-place Indians, 11-2, in front of 41,977 at Jacobs Field on Saturday night.
The Yankees are now 5-0 against Cleveland this year, and A-Rod has left the park in all five games.
Then again, Rodriguez has been an offensive wizard all year. Perhaps the story in Saturday's victory, one which kept New York tied atop the American League's Wild Card race, was the continued supremacy of the Yankees' scorching bats and Mike Mussina's emotional 100th victory in pinstripes.
Whatever it was, the good times rolled on for a club that has now won 10 of its last 12 games.
"There's a good feeling," Rodriguez said.
Said catcher Jose Molina, "Everything seems to be working for us."
The Tribe's nightmare began early Saturday. Wasting little time in silencing a sellout crowd, the Majors' most high-scoring offense put up seven runs in a decisive second inning.
The Yankees had six of their 19 hits in an inning that saw 10 Yankees come to the plate. There was the first of four hits by backup catcher Jose Molina, a two-run double by Johnny Damon, a two-run single by Bobby Abreu and Rodriguez's two-run homer over the center-field wall.
Rodriguez would later drive a two-run shot into the right center field stands for career homer No. 503 (39th of the season), and pinch-hitter Jason Giambi clubbed a majestic ninth-inning shot into the left-field bleachers to cap the thrashing.
"We look great at the plate," Mussina said. "Everyone seems to be swinging well."
Perhaps it was laughable then that the Yankees starter said his motivation for pitching so well was because -- get this -- "Today might be the day we score only three or four runs."
To be fair, though, it worked.
The right-hander allowed just two runs on eight hits while striking out six over 7 2/3 innings in a start manager Joe Torre called "probably" his finest of the season.
It was definitely Mussina's most meaningful. He became just the ninth pitcher in big league history to reach 100 victories with two teams. He previously won 147 games with the Orioles.
"It's a lot of wins. It's fun," Mussina said. "Not a lot of guys have pitched for this team and pitched long enough to win that many games. It's pretty cool, I guess."
The way he reached the centennial mark was vintage Mussina, and perhaps a sign Moose is at last back to old form after a frustrating start to the year. In winning his fourth straight game, Mussina has been far more confident Mussina, said Torre.
On Saturday, what most impressed was Mussina's efficiency and command. He threw 89 pitches, 69 for strikes, a fact Mussina credits to a curveball that had the Indians either flailing at or turning into easy outs.
"For sure, it was the curveball," Molina said. "That was his pitch tonight."
"He was pretty darn good." Torre said. "He pretty much did he wanted to do. They had some futile swings off him, which was a good sign."
A good sign for the stretch run, too. For like A-Rod and the Yankees in Cleveland, Mussina has quite the track record. One, in fact, that is now 100 victories deep in New York.
"I probably won't make it to 200," Mussina said, "so I better savor 100."