A.J. Burnett had plenty of chances to blow up again tonight. He could have gotten himself frustrated and let the Indians keep pace with that early Yankees onslaught, but despite letting the lead-off man reach base in each of the first five innings, Burnett held Cleveland scoreless through 6.1 innings.
“It’s the most I’ve felt like A.J. in a long, long time,” he said. “That’s probably because I was able to throw a curveball for a strike.”
The curveball was terrific tonight. Burnett called it, “the best it’s been in a long time.” And when his curveball is good, everything about Burnett is just a little bit better.
“A lot of it does depend on that,” he said. “You can ask guys probably in this room, when A.J. doesn’t have his curveball it’s going to be a tough night. I left a couple up early that they hit, but for the most part, it came out of the same window every time.”
After that winless month of June, Burnett is 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA through his five starts in July. That’s counting the two-inning, four-run debacle last weekend. Burnett said a lot of it has to do with tempo, about not being too quick with his delivery, something he said he was conscious of all night.
“This is probably the best I’ve felt in a long time as far as staying within myself and my delivery,” he said. “Two or three or four isn’t going to cut it. We need to keep a good run going and take it into my next start.”
Here’s Burnett after the game.
• Alex Rodriguez on his sixth-inning double, when the base popped out of the ground: “I thought the milestone was doubles so I took the base with me.”
• Francisco Cervelli took a pitch off the elbow in the third inning, but he stayed in the game. “He said his arm was asleep, so I think it got him on his funny bone,” Joe Girardi said.
• Because his previous two starts were short, A.J. Burnett was on a strict 115 pitch limit. Andy Marte was his last hitter no matter what.
• Girardi said he went to Joba Chamberlain in the seventh because he didn’t want to bring Sergio Mitre into the middle of an inning. “That’s not what he’s used to doing,” Girardi said. After Chamberlain stranded a runner in the seventh, Mitre pitched the eighth and ninth. “He threw more breaking balls for strikes today, and he got some outs with them,” Girardi said. “His velocity was better. We just need to get him built back up.”
• Brett Gardner went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI, two runs and a stolen base. It was his 30th multi-hit game this season. The Yankees have five hitters with 30 multi-hit games, the only team in the majors with that many.
• The Yankees have won 12 of their past 15 road games.
• Derek Jeter was the only Yankees starter without a hit tonight. Gardner, Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson each had two hits. The bottom three hitters in the Yankees order had five hits and five runs, all in the first three innings when they had combined for six at-bats.
• With the game well in hand, Rodriguez said he did not feel “Not really,” he said. “You’re just trying to go out and win a game. The more I can think about the team and how I can help out the team win and be productive, the better it will be for the team and everyone.”
Associated Press photos of Burnett on the mound, Rodriguez with the base and the pair of Cervelli and Rodriguez waiting for Gardner to score after Teixeira’s two-run single in the second.