"It's a manager's dream; when you play 162 games, consistency is what it's all about," Joe Torre said. "To go out there and be counted on for 10-plus every year, that's pretty impressive. It's like putting money in the bank."
Less than 24 hours after the Indians handed the Yankees an embarrassing loss, New York returned the favor, using an eight-run fourth inning to take the drama out of the contest early.
"They took advantage of us last night," Torre said. "We made things happen tonight."
"It was a good day," said Mussina, who allowed three runs over six innings. "It was a nice way to come back after what happened to us last night."
Melky Cabrera went 3-for-4 with his first career grand slam and five RBIs, a career high. The Yankees had 13 hits on the night while setting a season high with six stolen bases -- the first time New York has swiped six bags in a game in nearly six years.
The win, combined with Boston's loss to Tampa Bay, moved the Yankees within three games of the first-place Red Sox in the AL East.
"We did a lot of good things tonight," Torre said. "We know we have to do little things to have big things work for us."
The Yankees opened the scoring against Paul Byrd in the first on Cabrera's RBI single, but the Indians tied the game in the third on Todd Hollandsworth's sixth homer of the season.
Then came the fourth, as the Yankees pounded Byrd for eight runs in the inning, the first four coming on Cabrera's slam, his third homer of the season.
"Melky's got some ability," Torre said. "The grand slam really got us off on the right foot."
Bubba Crosby, who entered the game in the third after Johnny Damon experienced soreness in his right oblique muscle, added an RBI single, as did Alex Rodriguez. Jorge Posada capped the inning with a two-run double, giving New York a 9-1 lead.
Mussina, who left his last start after four innings with a minor groin injury, said that the injury was in the back of his mind as Wednesday's start drew closer.
He was unsure how his leg would respond when he took the mound at full speed, and although the Yankees' bullpen threw 7 2/3 innings on Tuesday, Mussina wasn't going to try to be a hero and put his health in jeopardy.
"I knew we were pretty taxed in the bullpen, so I wanted to get to the second half of the game," Mussina said. "At the same time, I didn't want to miss a month by doing something I wasn't capable of doing. Scoring a lot of runs early was a big deal; I didn't have to over-exert myself."
The Tribe got two runs back in the bottom of the fourth on Ben Broussard's two-run homer, his 11th, but Mussina posted zeros in the fifth and sixth, ending his day after six innings and 84 pitches.
"He's a battler," Torre said. "He knew what we needed, and he knew he had a job ahead of him with the groin thing."
Kris Wilson, called up from Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday, retired all six batters he faced, tossing two perfect innings. Mariano Rivera finished the game with a scoreless ninth, making his first appearance since last Friday.
"He couldn't have given us any better," Torre said of Wilson. "He made it look easy."
After the game, Torre presented Mussina with two game balls and three lineup cards to commemorate his special milestone.
"First one ever; I had to keep something," Mussina said. "Hopefully I can keep it going, come back and try to do it again."