Anytime a pitcher has a season like A.J. Burnett did in 2010, you’re going to fret about him. Burnett’s performance tonight was somewhat reassuring, if short; but the guy’s recovering from a bad cold, and by the time he came out after five innings and 86 pitches (58 of them strikes), having allowed three earned runs and struck out six, the Yankees had already put nine runs on the board. It was something he could build on. The Tigers chipped away later on, but even Luis Ayala could not quite give this one away, and the Yanks went on to a 10-6 win.
The Opening Day game was crisper, but today’s bludgeoning got the job done too. Brad Penny was fooling no one today. This was clear from the first inning, when Derek Jeter singled and advanced on a wild pitch, Mark Teixeira walked, A-Rod doubled, Cano singled, and Nick Swisher hit a sac fly to make it 3-0. In fact, Swisher would go on to be the only Yankee starter without at least one hit. The next big blow came the very next inning, on Mark Teixeira’s three-run homer — his second in two games. Guess those extra swings he took this spring worked out okay for him. It’s always fun to project trends from the first few games ahead into ludicrously impossible season numbers, so hey: Teixeira is on pace for 162 home runs and 486 RBIs!
Penny left after 4.1 innings and what is, for now, a 16.62 ERA. He got pulled after a Cano double and a Posada walk, with one out, but Russel Martin’s subsequent three-run homer off of Brad Martin gave Penny his 6th, 7th and 8th earned runs. Martin is wasting no time ingratiating himself, is he? Given the generally low expectations people had for him and how quickly he’s started contributing, I imagine he’s storing up quite a bit of fan goodwill for the season.
As for Burnett, he started strong with a one-two-three first, and got through the second scoreless despite a double (to Miguel Cabrera, so fair enough) and a wild pitch. In the third he allowed an Austin Jackson solo home run, then cruised through the fourth, but hit a wall and frayed in the fifth: three straight singles and a walk before he managed to get out of it, with two runs in. He said after the game that he’s been feeling lousy and ran out of stamina, so good for him for fighting through to the end of the inning. A respectable start, and I assume Girardi wanted to get him out of there on a positive note, in line for the win. I won’t argue with that.
Thursday we got the A-bullpen: Joba, Soriano, Mo. Today was more the JV squad. Dave Robertson got through an inning, and then Luis Ayala (who I predict is not long for this team) took care of two innings, but gave up two runs in the 8th (on a Victor Martinez home run) to make it 10-5 Yanks. Boone Logan [obligatory beard-link] was next up, and he got himself into a little bit of a scrape: a walk, a single, a groundout, and a run-scoring throwing error by Eduardo Nunez, which… Eduardo: do you think you’re on the team for your bat? C’mon kid. Anyway, the tying run still wasn’t on base, but at this point Girardi decided not to mess around even a little, and summoned Mariano Rivera to face Miguel Cabrera for the last out. One ground ball out later, and the Yanks are 2-0 in 2011.
I have many serious doubts about the Yankee rotation, but that offense is nothing to sneeze at, and I expect it’ll win them a healthy number of games no matter which sacrificial lamb of a fifth starter gets tied to the mound.