The Yankees go for their second straight sweep following the All-Star Break today as they face off against the Orioles. The first two games of this series have been enjoyable, with the Yankees walking off with a 2-1 victory on a Hideki Matsui home run on Monday, and taking a sizable lead on Tuesday en route to a 6-4 win.
Hopefully today’s game is one of those stress-free blowouts. Not only because it’d be nice to go into the evening with a win to guarantee remaining in first place, but because there are a few guys in the pen who haven’t had much work lately. That’s partly a product of the starting pitching, but also a product of Joe Girardi‘s lack of faith in them in high-leverage spots. It’d be nice to get Mark Melancon, David Robertson, and Brian Bruney some mop-up innings when the Yanks are up big.
A.J. Burnett takes the bump for the Yanks this afternoon. After a shaky start Burnett has rolled lately, though he had some trouble in his first start after the break, pitching on eight days’ rest. Even without his A game, he held the Tigers to three runs over six innings. The five walks didn’t help, but A.J. didn’t let them hurt too much. We’re looking for more of the June 14 through July 8 A.J., the one with the sub 2.00 ERA and gaudy strikeout numbers.
On the other side is Jason Berken, the second rookie the Yankees will face in three days. He’s had a rough go in his first 10 starts, picking up a win his debut but failing to do so in his next nine. He hasn’t reached six innings or 100 pitches since June 18 against the Mets, and even then he allowed four runs.
A sixth round pick in 2006 out of Clemson, Berken got through the O’s system a level a year, though this year was his AAA year (he also started the year in AA but was moved up quickly). He impressed there, allowing just three runs in 25.2 innings over five starts. He’s not really a strikeout guy, but manages to keep his walks and homers low.
He’s a fastball-change-slider-curve guy, who mixes his pitches. He throws his fastball 60 percent of the time and gives just about equal time to the other three. The fastball averages around 92, so it’s not bad, and the change takes off about 9 mph. It doesn’t look like any of them is an out pitch, but he mixes things up enough to keep guys off balance.
Yanks get a small break after this, as the next game is 7 p.m. tomorrow. It was supposed to be an off-day, but instead they’ll make up an April rain-out against the A’s, and then play them in a regular three-game set.
And on the mound number thirty-four, A.J. Burnett.