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It's weighing on Mussina

Lack of run support has Yankees' ace feeling down

Mike Mussina is a two-time loser in the American League Championship Series. He is the only pitcher in pinstripes to have lost a game in this showdown, and last night he was pointing to an absence of run support as the main reason he is winless.

The Yankees have scored just two runs in each of his losses, 5-2 in Game 1, 3-2 last night, with both wins going to Red Sox counterpart Tim Wakefield. Mussina also lost the Yankees' Division Series opener to the Twins, 3-1.

Asked if he felt helpless watching the Yankees lineup struggle against Wakefield's knucklers, Mussina said, "Completely. I can only control 60 feet 6 inches. That's it. I'm doing my job the best I can. The other stuff has to be attended to by other people, not me."

Mussina has allowed five home runs in his two starts, including a pair by Todd Walker.

Asked about his stuff, Mussina said: "It's about as good as I've got.

"We always seem to do OK when I don't pitch, so let the other guys have it and we'll win the series and we'll move on."

Under pressure

Red Sox officials were nonplussed by the negative judgments rendered by members of the national media in the wake of Sunday's appearance by the team's principal owners at a press conference.

Characteristic of the reaction was this by Thomas Boswell, the esteemed columnist of the Washington Post: "All three Red Sox owners, in an act of breathtaking bad judgment, called a mass news conference so they could throw spitballs at the Yankees and deflect criticism from their team . . . Perhaps, before Game 4 in Fenway Park on Monday, Commissioner Bud Selig himself can come here and decide whether the Red Sox should write on the blackboard 1,000 times, `We will never again act like an organization that has completely lost its mind . . .' "

Said Dr. Charles Steinberg, the Red Sox executive vice president of public affairs: "There was no gag order, no `you can't talk' when the commissioner spoke with Larry [Lucchino, the team's CEO]. Larry did his best to observe the parameters set by the commissioner.

"In Boston, the most profound lesson we were asked to learn upon our arrival here in December 2001, was `Please be accessible.' It would be shocking to find a writer who found fault with owners of a club being accessible."

Been there, done that

Saturday night was not the first time Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer has been involved in a physical altercation with a player while serving as a coach. On May 27, 1984, when Zimmer was third base coach of the Chicago Cubs, Reds pitcher Mario Soto tackled Zimmer on the field after a ball hit by Ron Cey, initially ruled foul, was declared a three-run home run. Zimmer successfully lobbied the umpire to reverse the call. That game, coincidentally, was Dennis Eckersley's first start as a Cub after he was traded by the Red Sox . . . All three players fined by Major League Baseball for their actions in Game 3 Saturday -- Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez of the Sox, and Yankee Karim Garcia -- are expected to appeal through the players' union. Garcia already declared his plans to do so . . . Ramirez's agent, Jeff Moorad, was here last night.

The daily double

When Trot Nixon was caught stealing as Bill Mueller struck out on a 3-and-2 pitch in the third inning, it was the third straight game in which the Sox were involved in a strike 'em out/throw 'em out double play. In Game 2, Gabe Kapler was cut down by Yankee catcher Jorge Posada as Mueller whiffed; in Game 3, Manny Ramirez was nailed by Posada as David Ortiz fanned . . . Jason Varitek didn't start last night not only because Doug Mirabelli is Wakefield's regular catcher, but because Varitek was 2 for 36 lifetime against Mussina. Varitek did provide the deciding RBI in the seventh when he pinch hit for Mirabelli and delivered a bases-loaded fielder's choice . . . Varitek is not happy about this afternoon's 4:18 p.m. start for Game 5. The shadows will make it extremely difficult for both catchers. "We just don't play 4 o'clock games during the season, but we'll just have to deal with it," he said . . . More than a few folks held their breath when Derek Jeter blooped a ball to short center field in the third inning. But second baseman Walker peeled away from the play well before center fielder Johnny Damon made the catch. It was on a similar play in Game 5 of the Division Series in Oakland that Damon collided with second baseman Damian Jackson and sustained a concussion. Grady Little said he was leaning toward starting Walker this afternoon, even though he had made it his practice to play Jackson at second when Derek Lowe is pitching. Walker would play because he's hitting (11 for 28, .393 in nine playoff games) and Jackson (1 for 8, .125) is not.

And the home of . . .?

Balladeer Michael Bolton, a friend of Sox owner John W. Henry, forgot the lyrics midway through the national anthem. He came to a halt after "O'er the ramparts we watch'd," then resumed after consulting a crib sheet. Bolton, incidentally, had cut his trademark long locks well before the current Sox head-shaving craze. In case you're wondering why James Taylor, who sang a memorable anthem during the season here, hasn't performed during the playoffs, he's on tour. Plus, the Sox were reserving a place for Taylor in the World Series . . . Word from one major league executive here yesterday was that Expos general manager Omar Minaya had turned down the Reds' job. Sox assistant GM Mike Port, Twins assistant GM Wayne Krivsky, and Giants assistant GM Ned Colletti are believed to be the finalists for the job formerly held by Jim Bowden . . . Yankee bullpen members were booed as they made their way out to the pen. Posada, who went out to warm up Mussina, drew loud boos as he sprinted back and forth from the dugout, and again when he was announced to hit in the first inning . . . As public address announcer Carl Beane entreated him to show that "corkscrew windup one more time," 1975 World Series hero Luis Tiant threw the first pitch to former batterymate Carlton Fisk, the Hall of Famer who hit the epic home run to win Game 6 that year.

Peter May of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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