For the third straight start, A.J. Burnett did not bring his A game. In the first he gutted through 6.1 innings against the Indians, allowing just three runs while throwing a paltry 54 percent of his pitches for strikes. The next was the infamous Saturday game against Boston about which we will not presently speak. At the beginning this looked more like Boston than Cleveland, but Burnett settled down after the 2nd and finished seven innings, putting the Yanks in a position to win 7-4. They couldn’t have done it without yet another big inning from the offense.
The game started in an inauspicious manner, with Chone Figgins tripling past the outstretched glove of Johnny Damon. It took just a groundout to plate him. Three batters later Burnett was out of the inning, but his troubles wouldn’t end there. Mike Napoli started it right back up in the second, homering to right on a low, outside pitch. It seemed like a typical New Stadium home run, a hard hit ball that just carried. A few batters later it looked to get worse, with Erik Aybar hitting a sac fly to deep right — while shattering his bat. It’s not like Aybar is a power hitter by any stretch. A broken bat that deep? Uh oh.
Thankfully, A.J. was for the most part able to keep things under control the rest of the way. The only damage was again caused by Chone Figgins, as he singled home Erik Aybar after the latter doubled to lead off the fifth. This was particularly disheartening, as Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu had just given the Yankees the lead. Oh, Bobby. Your defense we do not miss.
Burnett finished the game having allowed four earned runs over seven innings. His strike percentage, 61 percent, was right in line with Saturday’s start, though obviously better than his previous one against Cleveland. In other words, he’s going to have to start throwing more strikes one way or another. However, of the 27 batters he faced 19 saw first-pitch strikes — though that includes Napoli and his damn home run. The Yanks will take this kind of start from A.J. from time to time, but we’d all clearly like to see more games like Tampa than like Cleveland.
The offense had another big inning last night, this time the eighth (or, should I say, teh eighth!!!11!1!!1!). The whole sequence unfolded pretty quickly, as the Yanks loaded the bases on essentially two pitches. Cano pulled the first pitch to right for a single, and Posada smacked the second pitch of his at bat into the gap for a ground rule double. Scioscia and company decided to intentionally walk Nick Swisher, and Melky Cabrera made them pay for it on the first pitch, singling to right and scoring Cano to take the lead for good. Not comfortable with a one-run lead, Ramiro Pena pulled the second pitch of his at bat to right for a two-run double. They could have gotten more, too, as Derek Jeter walked to re-load the bases with one out. But Johnny Damon looked like he wanted a grand slam bad and ended up popping out to short. Mark Teixeira then had a good at bat that ended with him getting fooled on a curve.
The game got frustrating at times, but the Yanks took advantage of their opportunities and came up with a big W. It’s still April (well, May by the time you read this), so checking the standings is kind of silly, but it’s nice to know that both Boston and Toronto lost. They’ll do it again tomorrow night, Andy Pettitte vs. Jered Weaver.