"It's as important for us now to play well here leading into the break as anything we've done all season," he said.
Mussina did his part Friday night, pitching seven sharp innings to help the Yankees beat the Oakland Athletics 2-1 for their first win in a week.
Alex Rodriguez had three hits for New York, which was coming off a disastrous 1-7 road trip. New York has won nine of its last 10 games at Yankee Stadium.
Manager Joe Torre also picked up win No. 2,010 to move one ahead of Leo Durocher for ninth on the career list. He appeared ready to pass Durocher on Thursday night with New York leading Baltimore 8-6 in the eighth but the game was suspended because of rain.
"I was hoping this would have happened earlier this year," Torre said with a smile. "Anytime you start passing guys like that it certainly leaves an impression. When I think of when I started here 12 years ago, this certainly wasn't on the top of my list."
Mussina (4-5) allowed one run and six hits to stop a personal two-game losing streak. He struck out three and walked one.
Kyle Farnsworth came in to pitch the eighth and gave up one-out singles to Stewart and Mark Kotsay. He then struck out Nick Swisher before Torre replaced him with Mariano Rivera. Farnsworth threw his glove against the dugout wall and slammed his hat down after departing.
"He was upset but he has to understand it shouldn't be an embarrassment when you bring Mariano Rivera in (from) the bullpen," Torre said.
It was the second animated display this week for Farnsworth, who shattered a bat in the dugout after departing Sunday's game in San Francisco and declined comment after the win over Oakland.
Rivera struck out Jack Cust to get out of the eighth then pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances. It also was career save No. 423, putting him one behind John Franco for third on the all-time list.
"We hit the ball well enough, we pitched well enough, we played well enough to win tonight," A's manager Bob Geren said. "We just didn't. We needed a few breaks and tonight we didn't get them."
The Yankees backed Mussina with several strong defensive plays. Derek Jeter robbed Bobby Crosby of a hit to begin the third, grabbing his grounder deep in the hole at shortstop before making a leaping throw to a stretching Andy Phillips at first for the out.
Jason Kendall and Stewart followed Jeter's play with back-to-back singles but Mussina got Kotsay and Swisher to fly out to end the inning.
Second baseman Robinson Cano made a nice stop on Mark Ellis' grounder to start an inning-ending double play in the fourth, and Crosby lost another hit in the fifth when Bobby Abreu jumped at the warning track to catch his fly ball to right.
"Everyone played well," Rodriguez said. "I think a couple double plays in there were very important. Pitching and defense and timely hitting, we'd like to get on a roll here this homestand."
A's starter Joe Kennedy got off to a rocky start but quickly settled down. Rodriguez hit a two-out RBI double in the first inning and scored on Jorge Posada's single to left to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Kennedy (2-6) got Abreu to fly out to left to end the first and then shut out the Yankees over the next five innings. New York put runners on first and second in the third but the left-hander got Abreu to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Kennedy allowed seven hits, struck out five and walked three, one intentionally. He's winless in four starts since beating Boston on June 6.
"I thought I battled well today," he said. "I was able to make some big pitches and get some big outs. I think I had guys on base almost every inning. It could've been a lot worse with how many guys I had on base tonight."
The banged-up A's placed outfielder Travis Buck on the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-hander Ruddy Lugo to Triple-A Sacramento before the game. They called up infielder Donnie Murphy and outfielder Dee Brown from their top farm club to give Geren another position player on the bench.
Buck makes it 10 players on the disabled list for Oakland, which has needed the DL 16 times already this season -- equaling last year's total.
- Oakland sent temperamental OF Milton Bradley to the Padres for minor league pitcher Andrew Brown and cash. Oakland designated Bradley for assignment on June 21.
- Oakland OF Bobby Kielty (strained left calf) went 1-for-2 with a double in a rehab game at Sacramento on Thursday night.
- New York will honor its 1977 World Series championship team at the 61st Old-Timers' Day on July 7. Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss and Ron Guidry are among the members of the championship team expected to be at Yankee Stadium for the festivities. New York hosts the Los Angeles Angels after the Old-Timers' game.