Bartolo Colon should probably be starting Game Four tonight. He outperformed A.J. Burnett all season long, but his stuff clearly faded down the stretch. The Yankees were concerned enough about Bart’s declining stuff that they left him off their ALDS roster entirely, so now the season is in Burnett’s hands. It wasn’t supposed to be, he’s only getting the ball because the weather didn’t cooperate on Friday, but it is what it is. No sense in complaining about it.
“I could have a very short leash,” said Joe Girardi after last night’s game, an indication of how important the game is more than his lack of faith in Burnett. It’s the first true must win of the season, either win or go home. Girardi needs to have a quick hook not because it’s A.J., but because of the magnitude of the game. He can’t afford to let any one of his pitchers let the game get out of hand, not just his starter.
Burnett has typically done his best work the first time through the order this year, part of the reason why he was in the bullpen to start the postseason. He pitched well against the Tigers in Detroit earlier this season, limiting them to two earned runs in seven innings of work (there were three unearned runs in there due to some Eduardo Scissorhands defensive funny business). That’s the best case scenario. I’ll take two runs over four innings and call it a win. Two runs in five would be a godsend.
Rafael Soriano threw 22 pitches last night, David Robertson just 14. Those two are good to go, for more than one inning if needed. Robertson especially is in six out territory; we saw Girardi use Kerry Wood as a two-inning setup man is Game Five of the ALCS last year (also an elimination game) and that’s exactly what he needs to do with his top setup arm tonight. Mariano Rivera has thrown three pitches since last Tuesday, so he’s good for more than just one inning of work now as well. It truly is an all hands on deck game.
“People are entitled to their opinion, and obviously I give them reasons here and there to doubt,” said Burnett after Game Three. “But the bottom line is I have confidence in myself. I’m not going to go out and try to prove anything. I’m going to go try and win a ballgame.” It doesn’t matter how he does it, just that he does it. Burnett has to be viewed as just one of many tonight, the first link in a pitching staff chain that will have to carry the Yankees back to the Bronx for Game Five.