Two Yankees solidified their spots on the postseason roster and the entire team crept closer to an unlikely division title during a 12-0 rout of the Orioles. Mike Mussina, all-but-certain Game Four starter in October, threw seven shutout innings with sharpness that eluded him most of the season. He held his former club, who usually find success against Moose, to three singles and struck out six Orioles and each inning he put in the books was another point in his column in the notebook Joe Torre uses to figure out his postseason roster. There doesn't seem to be anything Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy could do to upset that decision, the only snag could be if the Yankees are in the ALDS with an extra off-day.
The other Yankee to reassert his claim to a spot in the lineup is Doug Mientkiewicz. If there's something Torre loves more than green tea and abusing relievers it's good-glove first basemen. Mientkiewicz qualifies on that front but he's forcing his way past Jason Giambi because he's hitting just as well, if not better, than the sweaty slugger since returning to the team. He's 6-for-13 in September and hit a three-run homer to break open the game last night. He was already holding a spot on the roster but Dougie M. is going to play come October and probably going to play a lot.
Who he and the rest of the Yankees will be playing against remains to be seen because the Indians and Angels are deadlocked with 89 wins apiece. And also because the Yankees are just two and a half games out of first place after Eric Gagne failed to help the Red Sox close out a game yet again. He allowed three Blue Jay runs in the bottom of the eighth inning of the 4-3 loss. That's the fourth blown save for Gagne in a Sox uniform and with Jonathan Papelbon up and ready in the bullpen I'm curious what situation Terry Francona was waiting for before going to his closer. During the Fox game this weekend Josh Lewin pointed out the salary difference between Francona and Torre and it was bigger than I expected but Lewin went too far in comparing the two of them. Francona has managed one of the most talented teams in baseball for four seasons with one World Series title and not much else to show for it. Last night's game made me think that his in-game work, a problem with Torre as well, might have something to do with it.