"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Baumer

The Yankees have half-a-dozen starters for five slots so A.J. Burnett’s job assignment has been getting a lot of attention lately. He has been very bad for a good, long stretch now. When the Yankees have to make tough decisions, many, many fans would prefer to see him exiled to the bullpen, sent to the DL, or even released. How much of this has penetrated A.J.’s inner sanctum I have no idea, but he knows how bad he’s been lately and he can count to six. So I’m sure he appreciated the extra scrutiny on tonight’s start against the last-place Royals.

Burnett was protecting a 2-0 lead and potential victory when he faced Melky Cabrera with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth. It was a tough spot and Melky’s no slouch with the stick. Burnett leaped ahead of Cabrera 0-2 with a decent sinker and a good curve. He stood him up with an inside fastball. And then Burnett made his kill-pitch – the low hard curve down around Melky’s ankles. Melky spoiled it. A.J. looked frustrated that Melky hadn’t whiffed and fired his next three pitches indiscriminately towards the general back-stop area. Melky walked, cut the lead in half and Billy Butler followed with another hit that gave the Royals a 3-2 lead.

Stellar defense by Swisher (limiting Butler to a single on a liner towards the corner) and Cano (starting a gorgeous double play to end the inning) kept the score at 3-2, but A.J. Burnett left the mound spinning. And Yankee fans were knee-deep in another Burnett stinker. Through the fifth, he had allowed nine hits, a walk and three runs. Good defense saved him from a lot worse than that.

But the Yankees offense immediately responded to the deficit and pushed three runs across. With the new lead and A.J. somehow in line for a win, he was the last guy I expected to come out for the sixth inning. But there he was. He retired the first batter, allowed a single after a long AB, and then got Salvador Perez to fly out to center. Joe Girardi almost tripped over himself getting out to the mound. He lifted Burnett for Boone Logan. As Burnett left the game, Derek Jeter stopped and whispered something in his ear.

I think both Girardi and Jeter felt that sixth inning was of vital importance to A.J.’s mental state. To leave the game after the disaster in the fifth would have felt like a massive failure regardless of who ended up winning. But by sending A.J. out for the sixth, he might feel like he contributed something to the victory.

This game played out like a scenario contrived specifically for A.J. to work out his problems. That’s the state of the Wild Card race these days, and that, of course, is the state of the Kansas City Royals. I think if this were an important game, Girardi would have yanked Burnett after he walked Melky. Burnett appeared broken when Melky fouled off his out-pitch. And I think if it was even a semi-important game, Burnett would never have come out for the sixth. But it was a totally meaningless game, so Girardi experimented. Hopefully whatever he mixed in the test tube will be useful down the road.

In order for the psycho-drama to function properly, the Yankee offense needed to score first, but keep it close so they could fall behind. The defense had to be top-notch, as the Royals can hit a little bit and are aggressive on the bases. And then they needed to bounce back and give A.J. support when he needed it most. All parties performed their roles superbly. Gardner chopped run-scoring singles and Jeter had three hits and three RBI, the big blow a long triple to right-center that reclaimed the lead in the sixth.

I’d quibble about the first-inning bunt, but apparently, it was just part of the script tonight. Good thing it also called for a flawless Mariano save and a Yankee victory, 7-4. Rehire this creative team next time they play Boston.



Categories:  1: Featured  Bronx Banter  Game Recap  Jon DeRosa  Yankees

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1 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 15, 2011 11:55 pm

And back to having the same record as the Red Sox. At least after losing to Boston this time they didn't go into a 10-game funk like the last few times.

2 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Aug 16, 2011 12:06 am

You are spot on that this game was custom built for an AJ psyche polish. It all came together to make him feel good about himself. Nice the team coddles an $80+M professional. I know Cashman said to blame him for the contract, and don't use it to judge AJ, but really.

That double play started by Cano in the 5th saved A Burnt Jet from crashing and burning some more.

3 monkeypants   ~  Aug 16, 2011 2:07 am

Who's this Jeter kid I keep reading about the last month?

4 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 16, 2011 6:45 am

Congrats to Thome for 600 homers. Wow, I never thought I was watching a 600 homer guy there. YES showed his first homer, he was a tall skinny guy with a more awkward swing. Not the beefy power machine of today.

Thome has no steroid taint on him even though he underwent extreme physical change. Part of me is very relieved that there's no steroid controversy surrounding the man, but I also think it should not be part of the story written about the event.

He's a guy that used extensive muscle mass growth to become a legendary slugger. The only difference I see between McGwire, Sosa and Bonds is that I don't exactly know where Thome's muscles came from, and in that ignorance, give him the benefit of the doubt about its legality.

5 RIYank   ~  Aug 16, 2011 7:44 am

[1] Jon, are you allowed to have the first comment on your own post? I guess you were using it as a footnote.

[3] He's the Melancholy Shortstop, so naturally he thrives in the Home of the Blues. I was disappointed that you missed him sadly tripling into the night.

6 ms october   ~  Aug 16, 2011 9:01 am

the first inning bunt was pretty dipshitted - that seemed like it came from the bench.
it seems like aj's performance was good enough for chessmaster/cashman that he stays in the rotation.
but this start was not all that different than his previous stretch - pretty mediocre.

one the positive side loogan has been on a nice run, mo is mo, and jeter and gardner were all over the royals.

7 briang   ~  Aug 16, 2011 11:10 am

burnett is pretty mediocre, and i don't mind. money is given out like candy these days in all aspects of our society. how can you all care what he makes?.....he ain't worth it. no one's worth it.

the guy pitches, he doesn't claim to be an ace, no one claims that he's an ace. the yankees build this insane offense so they can dig themselves out of the hole that is pitching in the major leagues, there is a serious scarcity of the good shit. about 10 guys are as awesome as you all wish AJ is. AJ is healthy, he holds the the offenses to 3 or 4 runs over 7 innings and more often than not the yankees win. he may not, but they do. it's fine. it's all good for us as yankee fans. they been winning nearly 100 games a season for years now and we are stoked. imagine being a pirates or a cubs fan. we have nothing to complain about. when AJ pitches i root for him. when he fails i get as bummed at him as i do everyone else. go yankees!!!!!

8 BobbyB   ~  Aug 16, 2011 11:53 am

AJ for Zambrano?

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