With A.J. Burnett taking the mound later tonight to try to secure a Fall Classic face-off against the Phillies, his personal caddy, Jose Molina, will be behind the plate. Although the offense suffers, I’ve come to terms with this decision. After all, Burnett is sporting a 2.19 playoff ERA in 12.1 innings and has struck out 10. If he truly does pitch better to Jose Molina, then the Yanks should, by all means, make Burnett comfortable in a potential clinching game.
Were the Burnett start ever so simple. As with every other A.J. Burnett outing, this one is not without controversy. Yesterday, Jorge Posada went 1 for 3 and was on base two other times while Hideki Matsui walked away from a 10-1 win as the other Yankee without a hit. For this short series, Posada is hitting .308/.471/.615 to Matsui’s perfectly respectable if powerless .286/.412/.357. Over the two games in Anaheim, Matsui has not looked particularly comfortable at the dish, but I’d hate to lose either player’s bat in Game 5.
So what are the Yanks to do? Would they DH Matsui behind Alex Rodriguez and prepare Posada for a mid-game pinch-hit appearance? Would they DH Posada, use Matsui to pinch hit and then either burn the DH spot or go with Francisco Cervelli behind the plate for the final few frames?
Marc Carig posed these question to Joe Girardi yesterday, and Girardi was nocommittal. “That’s something we’ll talk about,” the Yanks’ manager said. Posada issued a similar statement: “I don’t know yet. They haven’t said anything yet.”
The Star-Ledger reporter offered up this take on the situation:
Posada has hammered Angels starter John Lackey in the past. In 32 lifetime plate appearances against the Angels right-hander, Posada is 12-for-29 (.414) with three walks, a homer, and three RBI…Matsui hasn’t been bad against Lackey either. Though his .286 average in 32 plate appearance against Lackey pales in comparison, Matsui has two doubles, a homer and seven RBI against Lackey.
Based on some very limited numbers that generally don’t mean too much, Posada should start. He’s the hotter bat right now, and he has more success off of Lackey than Hideki Matsui does. Of course, the easy answer is to start Posada behind the plate. Although Jose Molina said he doesn’t know if he’ll be catching Burnett, I’m not going to mess with a good thing this late into October.
And so we await the lineup card. I predict Posada batting behind A-Rod. Jorge right now gives them the best chance to win, and with the Angels so close to elimination, the Yanks are going to apply as much pressure as they can later tonight.