4/24/2008 10:49:00 AM

Moooooooose!

Posted by Mark McCray |

John Harper/New York Daily News:

Maybe it's a matter of pride for Mike Mussina.

On a night when he passed Bob Gibson in career victories with 252, which puts him in quite an elite category, he wasn't going to give an inch, certainly not to Hank Steinbrenner.

Noting his use of two-seam fastballs, in fact, Mussina couldn't resist this line: "I pitched more like (Chien-Ming) Wang tonight than Moyer."

Even in going to the two-seamer, Mussina dropped his arm angle at times to create more movement, which is hardly Moyer-like, but it did seem to be an effort to do something a little different.

And then there was some intriguing visual evidence. He got Nick Swisher to chase a 78 mph changeup down and away for strike three to end the fifth inning. He got Orlando Cabrera to flail at a high changeup for strike three in the sixth - hardly a textbook pitch, but the surprise was enough to get the out.

"All I know," said Swisher, "was he was changing speeds real well. He got me with a good changeup I didn't expect there."

Obviously, the test now will be whether Mussina can continue to produce these kinds of results, two runs over seven innings and a lot of routine outs from seemingly off-balance swings.

Did Mike Mussina dig deep and will himself to this kind of performance as a way of telling Hank Steinbrenner, among others, that he's not Jamie Moyer, and he's not finished as a winning pitcher yet either? Or was this a change in style that will have legs and allow Mussina to pitch effectively in the coming weeks and months? If it was the latter, it could have huge ramifications for the Yankees, taking some pressure off of Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, not to mention allowing them to keep Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen.

Yes, there was every reason for Mike Mussina to sneer at Hank Steinbrenner's amateurish analysis. Yet maybe the bluntness of it was something Mussina needed to hear. He isn't Jamie Moyer, but he is a finesse pitcher these days.

Maybe he needed to be insulted to be pushed further in that direction.

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