A.J. Burnett knows when to celebrate. He knows when to move on quietly. Tonight he was moving on.
Burnett’s first win since June 29 was good enough. It was good enough to give the lineup a chance to rally. It was good enough to hand a lead to the Yankees lock-down relievers. It was good enough to put the Yankees back into a tie for first place. Burnett scattered singles, got a few key outs and walked just one batter.
“Maybe a cupcake,” Burnett said. “No pie for that. You’ve got to do a lot better than three runs in five and two-thirds to get a pie.”
Fair enough. Really, this outing wasn’t much different than the seven winless starts that came before it. Burnett had his one bad inning, and he was rarely overwhelming, but this time the Yankees scored enough runs. Burnett wasn’t happy to come out of the game in the middle of the sixth, but Joe Girardi wanted to matchup against a lefty, and Burnett seemed to realize he was in no position to argue.
“You can’t fight City Hall,” Burnett said. “Skip’s got a reason for everything. The way I look at it is we’ll build from this one, start pitching a little better and give Skip some confidence. The bottom line is, the better I pitch, the longer I’m going to stay out there.”
Derek Jeter said Burnett should be “real pleased” with this start, and Girardi said it was a chance for Burnett to feel like he’s contributing.
Burnett gave up 10 hits, but none went for extra-bases. He walked only one batter, but that was with the bases loaded. He got a win, but didn’t pitch through the sixth. It was enough to put the Yankees back in first place, but it probably wasn’t enough to quiet the frustration with the pitcher who’s supposed to be the Yankees go-to No. 2 starter.
“I think a lot of times when players are evaluated, I think the salary is one thing that’s always thrown into the mix,” Girardi said. “And that’s understandable. I understand that. With a high salary is always high expectations, but there’s been some games here that he could have won that we didn’t necessarily score runs. What’s fair in life and unfair, everyone’s going to have a different opinion, but I think he’s thrown the ball better than some of the outcomes he’s had.”
• Hey look, it’s a scoreless inning by Mariano Rivera! After three straight rocky outings, the Yankees closer pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to seemingly put himself back on track. “That doesn’t matter,” Rivera said. “We won the game. That’s the most important thing. It feels good. You just want to be there, just go out there and pitch.”
• Another good night for the top of the Yankees lineup. Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter reached base six times and drove in five runs. Jeter had the biggest hit of the night with a two-run triple in the sixth. “We were leading the whole way, then they scored three, but we answered right back,” Jeter said. “I think that’s important. It probably relaxes A.J. a little bit. I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but I would assume so. You’re probably not feeling too good to give up the lead, but then we come right back.”
• Was Jeter thinking triple off the bat? “To be quite honest with you, I hit it and then I lost it in the scoreboard,” Jeter said. “The scoreboard is lit up pretty well. I saw Gardy going, so I just kept going. No one told me to stop.”
• This was Jeter’s 2,391st game, passing Lou Whitaker for the 17th-most games among players who spent their entire career with one team.
• Gardner is hitting .500 (7-for-14) against the Royals this season.
• Mike Moustakas was hitting 4-for-50 against left-handers this season. That’s why Girardi went to Boone Logan instead of letting Burnett finish the sixth. “The struggles that he’s had against left-handers, that’s the time to use my lefty because I know that I have the seventh, eighth and ninth guys if I want to go to them,” Girardi said.
• Another nice game for Jorge Posada, who drew a walk and had the single that started that pivotal three-run sixth.
• The Royals like to run, but the Yankees threw out two runners trying to steal and got another out on a pickoff. “Russell can really throw the baseball,” Girardi said. “And you take your chances when he’s behind home plate.”
• Burnett got two big double plays, the first of which came on a changeup. The second came on a fastball inside to Eric Hosmer. That’s certainly one of the biggest pitches of the night. “Confidence in the fastball in,” Burnett said. “I got it inside him a little and Robbie was able to make that play that not a lot of second basemen make. I threw some good changeups to righties all game. Billy (Butler) had a good swing on a changeup, but what can you do? It was a good pitch and he took it over there; that’s baseball. I have to learn to live with those things and that’s why I was able to get out of that inning.”
• You may have noticed Jeter and Burnett talking on the mound after Burnett was pulled. It was a conversation about the way Burnett was holding his glove to hid the ball before pitches. “I asked him to keep an eye on my hand, because I feel at times the way I set, maybe a runner at second can see my grip,” Burnett said. “I made a conscious effort to turn my glove in a little bit. That’s what I had him keep an eye on, and he said he never saw a thing.”
Associated Press photos