A.J. Burnett was magically able to live up to his potential, only allowing one run in 5.2 innings, helping the Yankees win 10-1 and force a deciding game five, in the Bronx, on Thursday.
After being one of the most least likely and counted on pitchers to start a potential series deciding game Burnett was able to come out and pitch like he did in 2009. In his first season with the Yankees, after signing a $82.5 million contract, he had 13 wins, with a 4.04 ERA and 195 strikeouts.
During the American League Division Series that season, against the Twins, he allowed one run, in six innings, while striking out six. This start was very similar as he struck out three, while walking four, in his 5.2 innings. Joe Girardi could have even left him in to finish the sixth, but with Burnett it is better to be safe than sorry.
Hopefully, if the Yankees go onto win the game on Thursday as they should, Burnett will pitch well in the ensuing rounds unlike the 2009 ALCS and World Series. It did not come back to hurt the teams since the won the championship in 09, as a result of their superior pitching staff, but this year they will need a another solid start out of him.
The Yankees played a dominating all around game as the defense, bullpen and offense all did their part.
In the third inning, shortly after Curtis Granderson’s remarkable defensive display began, Derek Jeter would continue to excel in the postseason like normal, as he gave the Yankees all the runs they would need with his double to center that scored Jorge Posada and Russell Martin.
MVP candidate, Curtis Granderson, was by far the star on defense as he made two catches in center-field that could both be number one on the Sportscenter Top 10 plays list.
His first gold glove worthy catch was when the bases were loaded in the first inning and Don Kelly hit a deep fly ball near the warning track with two outs. Granderson timed his jump perfectly to prevent any runs from scoring. This completely changed the game because the Tigers could have easily scored three runs on that play.
Granderson did his part at the plate, as well, since in the fifth inning he smacked a double to right that scored Brett Gardner. Gardner, after struggling a little in September, has been a major bright spot for the Yankees in the playoffs with his .385 average.
His second stellar catch was not as important to the outcome of the game but was almost more impressive. Johnny Paralta was Rafael Soriano’s first batter and it appeared that Soriano would be on his way to blowing the 4-1 lead. This time there was only one runner on base but Granderson went all out in order to fully extend himself on his head first dive to just barely catch the ball.
It was somewhat surprising that Soriano came into the game, after he gave up the homer that won the game for the Tigers in game 3, so he definitely owes Granderson after that catch.
The outcome of the game was still in doubt after that catch because the Yankees were only winning by three, after six innings where Morristown, New Jersey’s, Rick Porcello, allowed four runs, but the eighth inning would be where the Yankees would live up to their Bronx Bombers nickname.
They scored six runs in the eighth inning off of a combination of former Yankee, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque and Daniel Schlereth. They would load the bases off of Coke and a key to this inning was that after struggling earlier in the series, Mark Teixiera and Alex Rodriguez were finally productive. They amazingly scored all of their runs in this inning off of a wild pitch, a balk, and singles by Jesus Montero (in his first postseason at-bat), Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano.
In total, the Yankees batted around that inning and Rodriguez and Teixiera batted twice. Rodriguez was 2-4 with that RBI and he will need to continue his productive play in game 5. Teixiera and Rodriguez are supposed to be two of the anchors of the offense but the Yankees were able to win with only one RBI from those two because of an all around team effort.
The bullpen, including Soriano, got the job done like they have so many time this season. Soriano, combined with Phil Hughes and Boone Logan, pitched 3.1 innings while not allowing a hit or a walk. That is all you can ask for and it was an added bonus to keep Mariano Rivera and David Robertson rested for game 5 on Thursday.
It will be rematch of the continued game 2 as Ivan Nova will match-up against Doug Fister on Thursday. Nova, who should be the Rookie of the Year will be up to the task since he has pitched well in every big game he has started this year. He is confident but not cocky so he should be able to handle the pressure that he will find himself in when he makes the start at Yankee Stadium.
A.J. Burnett has definitely earned himself another start, so hopefully Nova and the offense will be able to lead the team to the ALCS against the Texas Rangers.