Mike Mussina probably will be looking forward to tonight's matchup with Jimmy Key.
Both will be vying to become the major leagues' fourth 10-game winner as the Orioles seek a split of their four-game series with the first-place New York Yankees at Camden Yards.
Sure, Key has won 32 of his past 40 decisions over a period of two-plus years, and currently has a 9-1 record. He also has held opponents to a .255 batting average and to one home run per 16 innings.
However, Mussina (9-3) not only enjoys this challenge of facing the opposition's better pitchers, but thrives on it.
Mussina is 6-1 against pitchers with winning records, but is 2-2 vs. those with losing records.
The nine pitchers that Mussina beat this year have a combined 48-34 record. This list includes such premier pitchers as Boston's Roger Clemens and Aaron Sele, Randy Johnson of Seattle, Tom Gordon and Kevin Appier of Kansas City, Detroit's Mike Moore and Toronto's Todd Stottlemyre.
After losing back-to-back starts for the first time since his first two major-league starts, Mussina has rebounded with two straight victories.
Mussina is tied for most wins on the team with Ben McDonald and leads Orioles starters in lowest ERA (2.73), most innings (105 2/3 ), and lowest home runs to innings ratio (one home run for every 11 innings). Opponents are hitting .232 against him.
Last year at this point in the season, Mussina had a 9-2 record with a 3.05 ERA, which nearly mirrors his statistics this season. With soreness in his back and shoulder putting him on the disabled list for a month, Mussina struggled the next 10 weeks, winning only two games.
Mussina and Key haven't faced their opponents tonight this year, but both had success in their only starts against them last year.
Mussina allowed two runs and six hits in 8 1/3 innings to raise his career record against the Yankees to 2-0 in three starts.
Key gave up one run in seven innings for the victory on Sept. 29, which moved his career record vs. the Orioles to 10-9.