Once a team has clinched its postseason fate, most baseball writers use their game stories to focus on a player or concept instead of the (meaningless) game itself. The Mets writers, you can imagine, have been doing this pretty much since late July.
Anyway, Pete focused last night on A.J. Burnett having another strong outing in what was surely a difficult week for him (best wishes, of course, go out to his dad). It’s been said by many, and I agree, that Burnett is one of – if not the single – biggest keys for the Yankees this postseason. If starting pitching is what defines a team in October, having the good Burnett instead of the bad one could be the difference.
After last night’s game, Burnett has pitched well in four of his last five starts, which certainly eases some of the concerns. As it stands right now, he’ll pitch the last game of the regular-season which would put him in order to pitch Game 3 of the ALDS. There are many who believe he should pitch Game 2 because of his – and Andy Pettitte’s – home/road splits, but if I were making the call I’d rather have Pettitte pitch twice (Games 2 and 5) in a series over Burnett.
Here’s another factor to consider: Burnett pitched to Jose Molina last night for the fifth start in a row. Now, one of those games (the first one) was part of a doubleheader and one of those games (the last one) came with Jorge Posada coming off a neck injury, so maybe it’s not anything more than circumstance.
But if Joe Girardi thinks Burnett is more comfortable with Molina, that’s another (albeit smaller) reason to pitch him in Game 3 instead of Game 2. Having Posada’s bat out of the starting lineup twice in a five-game series is hard to imagine.