Mussina opens four-game set with Sox

Mussina opens four-game set with Sox

The Yankees and Red Sox saw plenty of each other last month, playing seven times between May 1 and May 24.

New York's record in those games is 3-4, and it enters this week's four-game set at Yankee Stadium trailing Boston by a half-game in the American League East.

What does it all mean? Not much, really.

With the season just starting its middle portion of the schedule, there are more than 100 games to go until a division champion is crowned and the playoff matchups are set. Regardless of what happens this week, nothing will be decided between the Yankees and Red Sox -- and Blue Jays -- until September.

"You look at the standings, but you don't make much of them," said manager Joe Torre. "It's just a number now; it's not significant. There's too much time left."

The two rivals open the series on Monday with a stellar pitching matchup, as Mike Mussina and Josh Beckett each take aim at their eighth victory of the season.

Mussina has posted quality starts in each of his 12 starts this season, pitching at least six innings while allowing three runs or less. Mussina has won six consecutive decisions, his only loss of the year coming on April 14 in Minnesota.

Mussina defeated the Red Sox on May 10, giving up three runs in 6 2/3 innings in the Bronx. His 2.42 ERA leads the American League.

Despite the first- and second-place positions for the Red Sox and Yankees, respectively, New York's players aren't approaching this series any differently than they do any other.

"The public and everybody plays these games up, and we try to play them down," Mussina said. "We can't turn it up and play better just because it's the Red Sox. We go out and play our best baseball every day we step on the field -- or at least we're trying to.

"Just because we're playing the Red Sox doesn't mean we're going to be at another level," the pitcher added. "If we get all hyped up and think it's the most spectacular thing ever, then we don't play as well. Just play the game the way you're supposed to play the game."

"You're going to feed off the energy of the fans; we know it's crazy, we know it's something we have to deal with, but we also know it's a baseball game," Torre said. "If you attach any more significance to one game, you're getting away from doing what you need to do."

Tuesday, Chien-Ming Wang takes on rookie David Pauley, while Jaret Wright and Curt Schilling square off on Wednesday. Thursday's finale sees Randy Johnson start against veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

"It seems like we play them every other week," Torre said. "I'm happy we're playing at home; it's still going to be a nuthouse, but it's our nuthouse."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (7-2, 4.46 ERA)
Before losing the last time out, Beckett had won four straight, the first time he'd done that in his career.

NYY: RHP Mike Mussina (5-1, 2.35 ERA)
Mussina is the only pitcher in the Major Leagues to have at least 10 starts and to have thrown at least six innings in those games.

Player to watch
Melky Cabrera has a seven-game hitting streak, matching his season high. The switch-hitter is batting .316 against righties this season, 25 points higher than his average against left-handers.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES Network

On radio
• WCBS 880 AM, WKDM 1380 AM (Español)

Up next
• Tuesday: Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 5-2, 4.82) vs. Red Sox (David Pauley, 0-0, 12.46), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Yankees (Jaret Wright, 3-3, 4.12) vs. Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 8-2, 3.86), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Yankees (Randy Johnson, 7-4, 5.33) vs. Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 4-7, 4.05), 7:05 p.m. ET

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.