Mussina named Pepsi Clutch Performer

Mussina named Clutch Performer

ARLINGTON -- Considering all the pitching injuries that have befallen the Yankees, finding someone to step up and carry the team has been critical. Yet the Yankees have not needed to look far.

There, sitting on their own staff all this time, has been the ace they've needed. And Mike Mussina's performances have been so significant to the Yankees that MLB.com readers just voted him the Pepsi Clutch Performer for July.

"Without Moose, I don't know where we'd be," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said recently.

Then again, Girardi does have a small idea.

"We'd be under .500, that's for sure, if Moose hadn't done what he's done," Girardi said. "He's pitched so many big games for us. He's had a great streak going. You just know that Moose is going to find a way to get it done."

The Pepsi Clutch Award is presented monthly to one player whose performances could be considered "clutch," thanks to late-inning dramatics or well-timed performances.

At the conclusion of the 2008 regular season, fans will have the opportunity to vote on the Major League Baseball Clutch Performer of the Year Presented by Pepsi. The award winner will be chosen from among six finalists selected by a special MLB.com editorial panel. Voters will also be able to enter for a chance to win a trip to the 2009 All-Star Game to be held at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Mussina beat out a ballot that included Carlos Delgado of the Mets, Troy Glaus of the Cardinals, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, CC Sabathia of the Indians and Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays. His 2.61 ERA in July was a large reason for his victory, as were his three wins. But more than anything, Mussina's ability to carry this staff has been paramount -- especially considering that the Yankees did not expect him to provide nearly this much production.

For the year, Mussina is 15-7 with a 3.27 ERA, after he spent part of last season bounced from the rotation.

"I just think it's being healthy," Mussina said recently. "I think it's being 100 percent. Especially when you're an older player, the injuries or the nagging things can last longer -- do last longer -- and cause more trouble. They sometimes lead to other things, unlike someone who's 10 years younger than I am. Last year was just one thing after another."

And now that Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are all injured, the Yankees are leaning on Mussina more than ever.

"He's been the leader on the staff," Girardi said. "Each start, it almost seems like he's getting better and better."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.