Does one good start in an ultimately meaningless game mean anything?
Since joining the Yankees three years ago, A.J. Burnett had never beaten the Red Sox. He had a 7.36 ERA in two previous starts against them this season, and let there be no doubt, they were certainly playing for something this afternoon. It might have been a meaningless game for the Yankees, but it meant something for the Red Sox.
Did it mean anything for Burnett?
“It’s up to (Joe Girardi),” Burnett said. “I just wanted to come out and give him headaches. I’ve been giving him headaches all year, why not give him a good headache, you know? I got runs early the past month or so and haven’t been able to put it all together, so to go deeper in the game and keep the lead — I still made a couple mistakes to Ellsbury — but for the most part I was able to make pitches when I needed to.”
Burnett pitched 7.2 innings. He allowed two runs on five hits — only Jacoby Ellsbury’s home runs hurt him — and he struck out six. He’s 2-0 with a 4.34 ERA in September, but the last time he pitched this many innings with two runs or less was way back on June 13. He walked off the field to a standing ovation.
“There were lots of (goose bumps), lots of them,” Burnett said. “It means a lot, you know. They’ve been rough, but I’ve given them reason to be rough. That makes up for everything, walking off that mound to that ovation is incredible.”
What does it mean for his spot in the postsaeason?
“We’re going to continue to look at it and talk about it,” Girardi said. “And our opponent has something to do with who we’re going to pitch.”
Burnett hasn’t faced Texas this season, but he made two solid starts against the Tigers, and has pretty good career numbers against the current Detroit roster. Interestingly, Freddy Garcia has much worse career numbers against the current Tigers, and he gave up 10 hits — a season-high — against them earlier this season (Garcia has terrific career numbers against the Rangers and pitched six shutout innings against them this year). Is it possible the Yankees would lean toward Burnett over Garcia if they face Detroit in the first round? Girardi wouldn’t go into specifics.
“I’m just hoping I gave him something to think about, you know,” Burnett said. “He’s been nothing but positive toward me the whole season. He came out and shook my hand on the mound, and it was very professional of him. As many times I’ve gone away mad, he knows I’m not mad at him. He can call Cito (Gaston) and ask him how many times I got mad at Cito. He deals with it well, he deals with me well and when he put his hand out there, it meant a lot.”
• Cool pregame ceremony to honor Mariano Rivera’s record-breaking 602nd career save. The Yankees kept it a surprise and announced it to the media pregame with strict orders not to announce it on blogs or Twitter. Rivera was given a fireman’s helmet and a huge picture commemorating the milestone.
• Jorge Posada was out there for the Rivera ceremony, and he got his own moment with a third-inning curtain call after his home run. “The fans have been amazing all through my career, but especially this year,” Posada said. “They’ve been very supportive and for them standing after Andruw gets strike one. I didn’t want to interrupt his at-bat. It’s special to hit a home run and even in the last regular season game.”
• This was the first time that Posada hit cleanup since September 28, 2009. he hit his first cleanup home run since April 10, 2008. Of his 14 home runs this season, 11 have come at Yankee Stadium.
• On the home run, Posada scored his 900th career run. His first-inning walk was No. 934 of his career, moving him past Roy White for sole possession of seventh place on the Yankees all-time franchise list.
• The Yankees scored their first two runs without getting the ball out of the infield thanks to bunt singles by Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter. “It had nothing to do with our game plan,” Jeter said. “I’ve faced Wakefield a bunch and I don’t know if I’ve ever bunted off him before. The opportunity presented itself, and I tried it.”
• Jeter’s batting average is up to .300. “I’m not playing for a batting average,” he said. “I’m playing for trying to stay sharp for the playoffs. (Hitting) .300 obviously is better than .200, but I’ve hit .300 before.”
• This is the first time Jeter’s batting average has been .300 or better at the end of a game since he was hitting .333 after the second game of the season.
• The Yankees are an even 16-16 in Burnett’s starts this season.
• Dave Robertson has allowed one run and 11 hits in his past 26 appearances dating back to July 26. He has a 0.35 ERA in that stretch. According to Elias, Robertson has held opponents hitless in his past 21 at-bats with men on base.
• Robertson leads all American League relievers with 99 strikeouts this season. That’s good news for High Socks for Hope.
• Francisco Cervelli went for further tests today but the Yankees haven’t heard back from the doctors.
• Girardi said he’ll probably announce a Tampa rotation after the second game.
• There’s still no plan in place — or, announced anyway — for Phil Hughes. “We’re going to talk about how we’re going to use him in the next couple of days,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees will finish the season 44-12 in day game, the highest all-time day winning percentage by any team since 1900 according to Elias.
Associated Press photos