"I really don't feel like I can do much of anything right," Mussina said. "I haven't helped us at all in the last three games I've pitched. It's disappointing, and it's probably the worst nine innings that I've pitched in my career, in a row. It's tough to take."
While the Tigers didn't make the Yankees' task any easier by sending Justin Verlander (14-5) out on a three-hit, seven-inning mission, Detroit saw Mussina for the second time in three starts and proved all too familiar.
Mussina (8-10) allowed nine hits in three innings; his last three starts have produced 25 hits and 20 runs (19 earned) over 9 2/3 innings, a 17.69 ERA. A string of four consecutive victories bringing him to mid-August have quickly become a memory.
The Yankees will meet on Tuesday in New York to discuss Mussina's immediate future; manager Joe Torre said that Mussina tentatively remains on turn to make his next scheduled start on Saturday against the Devil Rays, but that would be subject to change pending an exploratory conference with the veteran righty and pitching coach Ron Guidry.
Names widely floated as possibilities to take Mussina's place in the rotation have included Triple-A hurlers Kei Igawa, Ian Kennedy and Steven White. But Mussina was not about to concede his rotation spot.
"If Joe thinks that somebody else can give us a lift, or do the job better, then that's up to him," Mussina said. "I'm certainly not hoping someone else is taking my spot. I want to keep going out there and figure out what's going on. I can't believe that, in three starts, I forgot how to pitch after 17 years."
Perhaps it's not a matter of knowing how to pitch, but physically being able to. Though Mussina insisted he would tell someone if he felt impeded, issues began to creep out in the aftermath of Monday's loss. Finally, Mussina hinted that his right hamstring -- the same one that he strained in April, when he served a stint on the disabled list -- has been sore for some time.
"It just doesn't look like he has the spring that he needs," Torre said.
Most everyone in the Tigers' order got pieces of Mussina through the first three innings, en route to the Yankees' worst blowout loss since they suffered a 19-1 defeat to the Cleveland Indians on July 4 last season.
Detroit scored just one run in the first, but the damage could have been much greater. Curtis Granderson was cut down at home plate on an unorthodox 5-4-2 fielder's choice and Melky Cabrera made a terrific running catch in deep center to haul in a Carlos Guillen sacrifice fly, likely saving two runs.
It mattered little, though, as Mussina's difficulties continued. In the second, Granderson stroked a hit that eluded Cabrera's dive for an RBI double, and Placido Polanco followed by zipping a ground ball up the middle for another RBI.
Detroit tacked on three runs in the third inning as Ivan Rodriguez, Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge all contributed RBI singles, finding open turf undefended by New York fielders.
"Right now, I let go of [the ball] and I don't feel like anything good is going to happen," Mussina said. "It's tough to pitch that way. You feel like you have no control over anything."
When the Yankees took the field for the fourth inning, Mussina did not join them, lifted after 72 pitches with New York down, 6-0.
"He's getting very frustrated," Torre said of Mussina. "We all know his track record over the years. Even though he's not overpowering and he's been more of a feel-and-touch guy, lately, he's been feeling for it instead of going out there and doing what he's able to do."
The early exit created a huge hole for the Yankees, who quickly watched a blowout first three innings morph into a laugher, as Detroit scored 10 runs off the bullpen.
With a big three-game series coming up against the Red Sox in New York, Torre said the Yankees would make a roster move prior to Tuesday's game; a likely choice to be optioned is left-hander Sean Henn, who allowed nine runs (seven earned) in 2 2/3 innings and was permitted to throw 79 pitches, thus leaving him unavailable for upcoming games.
Polanco greeted reliever Edwar Ramirez with a solo home run, his eighth. As Detroit padded its offensive numbers -- Inge had three doubles and four RBIs, while Granderson and Polanco each had three hits -- the Yankees had little to do but reflect on a road trip gone wrong.
Monday's game was ugly, but perhaps not as heartbreaking as other losses on the seven-game journey to Anaheim and Detroit; the Yankees opened the trip with a 10-inning loss to the Angels, waited out a four-hour rain delay in Detroit only to lose in 11 innings, and suffered a tight one-run loss on Sunday to clinch a losing trip.
"There's been a couple of games that could have gone either way," captain Derek Jeter said. "It's been a bad road trip for us, so it goes without saying that we need to play well at home. This is an important homestand."