Yanks looking for third straight

Yanks looking for third straight

Mike Mussina was underground and could not see the thunderstorm that was approaching the Boston area before Friday night's game. He remained at ease, though, as a cloud of reporters stormed the cramped visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park.

Wearing socks and sandals and sipping an orange soda, New York's Saturday starter chatted idly with teammates and watched the Braves-Cubs game on TV before pulling on his Yankees-issue batting practice gear.

Boston is old hat for Mussina, a 17-year veteran of the American League East who has thrown more innings at Fenway (159) than any active Red Sox hurler not named Curt Schilling (342 1/3) or Tim Wakefield (1,157 2/3). But facing the Red Sox, which Mussina will do for a 52nd time on Saturday, never gets easier.

"The more a guy sees you throw, the more [of an] advantage he gets," Mussina said. "He sees more situations, he sees more pitches. ... The more you're exposed, the better [hitters] feel in the box. I think the more you're out there, the advantage goes to the hitter."

Mussina owns a 19-15 record with a 3.58 ERA against Boston in an astounding 344 career innings. But his ERA since the Red Sox's World Series season, a three-year span in which he has faced them 11 times, is a more pedestrian 5.25.

Schilling will take the mound against Mussina, setting up a duel of 200-game winners. Unlike Schilling, Mussina has struggled this season, mirroring the Yankees' mound troubles.

But he has allowed just five runs in three starts with backstop Wil Nieves starting, a fact that prompted New York manager Joe Torre to anoint Nieves as Mussina's personal catcher.

After 17 years, change can be nice, even necessary.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Curt Schilling (5-2, 3.68 ERA)
His famed 2004 ALCS performance notwithstanding, Schilling has actually struggled against the Yankees' deep lineups of recent years, posting a 4.73 career ERA against the Bombers. If Schilling pitches as he did in his last start, that fact could prove irrelevant. The 20-year Major League veteran struck out 10 Indians in seven innings on Monday and had Red Sox manager Terry Francona reminiscing about the split-fingered fastball of Schilling's Philadelphia years.

NYY: RHP Mike Mussina (2-3, 5.86 ERA)
Mussina has a 2.60 ERA in 17 1/3 innings with Nieves starting and a 9.00 ERA in 18 innings without. Torre stopped short of committing to the idea of Nieves serving as Mussina's personal catcher indefinitely. If things go as planned on Saturday, the move could become permanent.

Player to watch
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano had 14 hits in his last 40 at-bats entering Friday, and slugged a second-inning home run off Boston starter Tim Wakefield. He owns a .391 career average against Schilling in 22 at-bats.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WCBS-AM 880 AM, WZAA-FM 92.3 FM (Espanol)

Up next
• Sunday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 3-4, 2.51) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 8-0, 2.65), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Yankees (Roger Clemens, 2007 debut) at White Sox (Jon Garland, 3-3, 3.91), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Yankees (TBA) at White Sox (Mark Buehrle, 2-2, 3.36), 8:11 p.m. ET

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.