Mussina off his game in blowout loss

Mussina off his game in blowout loss

NEW YORK -- Whether it was an omen or simply a well-deserved nine-pitch base on balls, the leadoff walk of Brian Roberts by Mike Mussina to begin Monday night's game got the Yankees off to a rough start.

It never really got better.

Mussina had gone three games without a walk before issuing a free pass to Roberts. And even though Mussina escaped the first inning with no runs -- Roberts was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Nick Markakis' double -- the Orioles tagged him for four runs in the second.

That was just the start for the Orioles in their 13-4 drubbing of the Yankees. As New York remains open to improving the back end of the rotation, Mussina had been the stalwart of the front, notching a 1.04 ERA in July before Monday. He allowed six runs, the most he's yielded since May 20, in five innings, his shortest outing since May 24.

"The leadoff walk, it's me getting behind in the count," said Mussina (13-7). "I'm missing by a couple of ball widths from where I should be throwing the ball. The days it's going good for me, I'm not missing those couple of ball widths -- I'm hitting my targets.

"Today just wasn't that day."

In the second, Kevin Millar and Ramon Hernandez hit back-to-back homers, Millar's bringing in three runs and Hernandez notching a solo shot.

"I was surprised," manager Joe Girardi said. "I expected Moose to have another great outing, because he's had so many leading up to this."

The second frame reflected what the Orioles did with regularity and what the Yankees (58-47) was so distant from.

New York had two hits through the first six innings, and the 3-4-5 hitters --- Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi -- were hitless. Johnny Damon, the only Yankee to get more than one hit, was the first to reach base against Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie (7-8) with a leadoff single in the fourth.

"Guthrie was just throwing hard strikes," said Damon, who was 2-for-5 with a three-run home run, his first since May 27. "His slider was good, and they were able to score some runs off of Moose, and Guthrie was just on ... he's got a great arm. He's one of those underrated guys who knows how to pitch."

When Mussina exited, the bullpen, which had a 1.75 ERA in the past 25 games, didn't do much to halt Baltimore's blitz. David Robertson and Kyle Farnsworth, whose two-run eighth frame ending an 11-inning consecutive scoreless stretch, combined to allow seven runs. Robertson yielded a grand slam to Adam Jones in the sixth, part of five runs in his one-third of an inning.

Before Jones' grand slam, Robertson hadn't allowed a home run in 136 Minor League innings or 12 1/3 in the Majors.

"I just told him to forget about it, start a new streak tomorrow or the next day," Girardi said. "He looked off today, too. It looked like he was pushing the ball a little bit. It wasn't coming out of his hand like we've seen it come out of his hand."

Recently acquired Xavier Nady offered New York one of its biggest highlights when he recorded his first hit as a Yankee with a solo home run, his 14th of the season, in the seventh. Nady, along with reliever Damaso Marte, were acquired on Saturday from the Pirates.

"I didn't even know [it was a home run at first]," Nady said. "I was just happy I put a good swing on the ball. Whatever happened, happened. I was pleased with that."

A day after the Yankees' season-high eight-game win streak was snapped by the Red Sox, the Orioles' 17 hits helped end the Bombers' 10-game home winning streak and prevented New York from gaining on Tampa Bay and Boston, which both lost.

Mussina, for one, didn't take much stock in knowing they weren't alone.

"You can look at it as a silver lining," he said, "or you can look at it as a lost opportunity."

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