A.J. Burnett should have won tonight. Shoot, anyone should have won tonight. He had a 13-1 lead before he walked to the mound in the third inning, but he still couldn’t last long enough to get a decision. Was there anything positive to take from tonight?
“I get to go in five days,” Burnett said. “That’s about it. It was one of them days, man.”
Burnett will, in fact, make his next start. Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have been sweating their rotation spots, but Burnett is safe.
“He’s starting on Wednesday,” Joe Girardi said. “His numbers aren’t that bad. If you look at the numbers of Hughes, I mean, Hughesy made one good start. We look at the whole year, and A.J.’s been decent for us.”
That’s true. Burnett’s been decent. He’s had three truly terrible starts, but all the rest have been four earned runs or less. He hasn’t been great, but he’s been better than last season, and the Yankees will stick with him even with Hughes and Nova seemingly pitching better lately.
“I believe I’m a big part of this team and I’m going to be a big part,” Burnett said. “I’m going to get on a roll and it’s just a matter of time… I got five days to be better, and I will be better.”
Tonight’s problem, Burnett said, was a combination of a flat curveball and a high fastball. He didn’t have the hook, so he needed to spot the heater. He couldn’t, and the White Sox took advantage of hitters counts and hittable pitches.
Girardi talked before the game about wanting to see Burnett finally get a win. He pitched well enough to win a few games last month and never did it. Tonight was a prime opportunity to get it done, but Girardi said he felt he had to make a change in the fifth — “I see that he’s struggling and we’ve got to win,” Girardi said — and whatever frustration Burnett showed was fine with Girardi. Burnett insisted that the frustration walking off the mound and into the dugout was directed at himself, not as his manager.
“I was a little upset,” he said. “But then again, he’s got to look at how I’m pitching too. I wasn’t exactly doing anything out there. I had one good quick inning but then you got to stop the bleeding somehow… Joe’s got to do what’s best for the team, keep us ahead in that game. The way I was throwing the ball, it didn’t seem like I could do it.”
And here’s Girardi.
• In the big picture, it’s impossible to ignore Burnett. But here and now, this was a big night for the Yankees, who have won six straight and 10 of their past 13. They have 33 extra-base hits in the past eight games. “It’s not too often during the course of the season where it seems like everyone is swinging the bat well at the same time,” Derek Jeter said. “But it’s been the case for us the last few days.”
• Jeter had the fourth five-hit game of his career, and his second of the season (I’m sure you remember the other one). He passed Lou Brock for 23rd on baseball’s all-time hits list with 3,026.
• Don’t look now, but Jeter’s hitting .280, the same as Brett Gardner. “I’m having good at-bats, trying to swing at good pitches,” Jeter said. “I feel as though since I’ve been back, I’ve been swinging the bat a lot better. I just want it to continue.”
• Eric Chavez homered for the first time since May 11, 2010 with Oakland. He had four RBI for the first time since May 10, 2007 at Kansas City.
• Other offensive notes: Gardner scored a career-high four runs and recorded his 19th consecutive successful steal… Robinson Cano has a hit in 39 of his past 50 games and had four RBI for the fourth time this season… Curtis Granderson is hitting .538 with three doubles, a triple and six RBI this series. He was a home run short of the cycle tonight.
• The Yankees bullpen pitched 4.2 scoreless innings allowing just one hit. Cory Wade got the win in relief of Burnett. The bullpen has a 1.93 ERA in the past 18 games.
• Burnett usually speaks glowingly of Russell Martin and their ability to work together, but tonight Burnett said some of the pitch sequences were predictable. “You know, you try to attack but I just felt like we got in sequences here and there: heater, hook, heater, hook, heater, hook,” Burnett said. “Me and Russ will watch tomorrow and we’ll figure it out.”
• Martin on the pitch sequences: “It’s a possibility, but he’s a three-pitch guy. His best pitch, his strikeout pitch, is his curve. I’ve been trying to talk to him, get him to elevate a little bit and use his fastball when he’s got a couple strikes to change the eye level. At this point, I think it would be a good idea to make some adjustments and change a couple things.”
• Martin said he thought falling behind in counts was a key to the White Sox getting their offense going in that fourth inning. He seemed to take Burnett’s struggles personally. “I’m just disappointed in myself that I couldn’t get him through five innings with that lead,” Martin said. “He’s going to say that he’s the one throwing the ball, but that’s why I’m not smiling much right now. I felt if there was any game to get him a win and get him back on track, this was it. There’s a whole lot of season left. As long as we can get him going in the right direction from here on out, I want him to start taking steps forward and not backward.”
• We’ll end this night on a positive note, with Girardi talking about the recent surge from the Yankees offense: “It’s just good at-bats is what it is, and guys getting their pitches and not missing them. Sometimes we’ve been missing them, and sometimes pitchers are going to make pitches on you, but their at-bats have been tremendous. It seems like we’ve jumped on teams early, and that’s important too.”
Associated Press photos