He has four starts left and little room for error, but when Mike Mussina walks off the mound for the final time this season, it will be as a 20-game winner, a career first.
Mussina needs three wins to reach that plateau and to notch 270 victories in his career. Nice symmetry.
Twice - both times with the Orioles - he flirted with 20, only to fall one win short. Three times he won 18. He has paid his dues, and the stars are aligned.
In his past two games, he beat the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox, so it's obvious he isn't running on fumes. As a matter of fact, Moose hasn't lost since July 28, when the Orioles smacked him around for six runs on the way to a 13-4 win.
Barring injury, acts of God - or did I say injury? - his starts will come Sunday against the Seattle Mariners followed by the Rays, Chicago White Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. His record against those four opponents this season is 7-1.
At 39, he has probably missed his opportunity to win a Cy Young Award or pitch a perfect game (he has come close several times). Without a contract for next season and prospects of a diminishing role in the future, this might be Mussina's last chance. He won't blow it.