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Mussina, Rivera get it done

Special to

Oct. 18

Game 2: Yankees 3, Mariners 2
If they played 162 times, they would all drip, drip, drip with the torture of turns and subturns, whys and whatifs and unthinkables.

On Thursday night, somewhere between Mike Cameron's trap and unforgettable catch, two Stan Javier at-bats that kept Mike Mussina to six innings and Scott Brosius turning on a 96 mph offering from Freddy Garcia for a two-run double and the sounding of taps (sometimes known as the entrance of Mariano Rivera), there was this one moment we will not long forget.

There were two outs in the seventh inning, a runner on second base, Ramiro Mendoza pitching, and Ichiro batting. Joe Torre skipped the Mike Stanton alternative, which meant pitching to the left-handed-hitting Ichiro and turning Mark McLemore around to hit right-handed, where he was batting .169 as opposed to .311 from the left side, and walked Ichiro.

Effectively, Torre put the fastest runner in the game on first as the go-ahead run and left Mendoza in to pitch to McLemore.

"It's a matter of trust, and we trust Mendoza, that is his inning, the seventh," said Torre.

Ground ball. Inning over.

"Joe just knows that trust is a two-way street, and this team is about trust of teanmates," says Tino Martinez. "I was confident, I trust Ramiro."

Once again, this game was a matter of getting into the seventh inning with a lead. Which is exactly what Mussina did. But as opposed to Game 3 of the Division Series against Oakland where he had his A-stuff, Mussina struggled.

"I thought I had a good fastball and struggled somewhat with my off speed pitches," Mussina said.

OK. After getting a first pitch swinging strike to Bret Boone, the third batter in the bottom of the first, Mussina didn't get another swinging strike on a fastball until his 103rd and final pitch to strike out Cameron to end the sixth inning. He hit Cameron with a curveball right before Stan Javier hit a high changeup for a homer in the fourth inning. But Mussina survived, fighting, creating, using everything in his power, and won again.

"When I get three runs like that, sometimes I have to adjust," said Mussina.

No kidding.

The last time Mike Mussina lost a game in which the Yankees scored three or more runs?

July 12.

That's why they signed him. That's why he's the most important free-agent signing of the last year and one of the many reasons the Yankees are now six wins away from another World Championship. The Yankees, as is their history, knew the right man to sign when it came to October.

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Gammons: Day four notes

Gammons: Day three notes

Gammons: Day two notes

Gammons: Day one notes

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