How much do you believe in three innings? Enough to believe that, just maybe, A.J. Burnett actually has found something this time?
Completely overshadowed by Mariano Rivera’s 600th save, Burnett showed something more than effectiveness on Tuesday night. He was legitimately dominant for three innings, striking out seven of the last 11 batters he faced and showing the kind of aggressiveness that he so often talks about.
“The first three innings he struggled,” Joe Girardi said. “The last three innings, he was as good as he’s been. And he made a little adjustment out there where, he just kind of went after it. He kept his hands in the same place that Larry had talked about, but he gave a little bit more more of a turn. It just really seemed to help him.”
A little more than two weeks ago, Larry Rothschild worked to simplify Burnett’s mechanics. The hands were held closer to the body, and Burnett’s turn was less extreme. The result was arguably Burnett’s best start of the second half, a two-run outing in Boston.
On Tuesday, after struggling to get lose and comfortable, Burnett created a kind of hybrid delivery. He went back to his old turn, and without meaning to, still managed to keep his hands close.
“We talked in between innings and it’s a happy medium between what we worked on and how I used to throw,” he said. “It just didn’t feel like it was coming out right. It didn’t feel normal. I eventually said, ‘That’s enough.’ The changes that we made allowed me to stay calm with the hands, the way I used to throw. Everything stayed the same as if I was there. I started different and had my turn, but my hands weren’t going everywhere. They were in a position where I could repeat my pitches.”
As the Yankees figure out what to do with their pitching staff in the postseason, it’s easy to consider Burnett to be the most obvious odd man out (one solid start in Boston and three terrific innings in Seattle don’t carry a ton of weight). But if he does this twice more in the next two weeks — against significantly better lineups — would that be enough to convince Girardi and the Yankees that Burnett’s become the hot hand, one they should ride into October?
“It’s a big confidence boost,” Burnett said. “It’s big. The bottom line is I was able to make that adjustment and keep my team in the game. I had some runners on and never brought down, never broke confidence, and I was making pitches when I needed to.”
Here’s Burnett speaking after Tuesday’s start.
Associated Press photo