Imagine, the Yankees’ entire year hanging on A.J. Burnett?
Ten days ago, Burnett walked off the mound at Yankee Stadium to cheers.
He’d held Boston to a pair of runs in 7.2 innings, striking out six, and severely injuring the Red Sox’ fading playoff chances. More important, Burnett shed just a little bit of hope that he might actually be able to help the Yankees in the postseason.
Well, tonight he gets his chance to not only help, but to save the Yankees … or help the Tigers finish them off.
Burnett — who had a handful of decent starts down the stretch, and who was sent to the bullpen and retired the one batter he faced as a reliever in the final game of the season — starts Game 4 of the ALDS with the Yankees facing early elimination.
It took some special circumstances, the rainout of Game 1 that wasted CC Sabathia after two innings, and moved him up from the Game 4 starter to last night’s Game 3.
So Burnett, who has had some moments in the postseason with the Yankees, gets a shot to make something of this season, and to extend it or end it.
“I look at it as a chance to get my team a win … a very big one,” Burnett said. “I had good games, bad games during the season. You can say the ame thing about the postseason, but you can’t count me out. I’m going to bring everything I’ve got, and just let A.J. loose out there.
“Like I said, it’s an important game. It’s going to be more important depending on the outcome (of Game 3), but I can’t do anything to change the season. But I can help my team to win. I’m going to do that the best I can.”
Confidence has never been the issue with Burnett, and he said as much.
“Believe it or not, I have pretty good confidence every start,” he said. “I try to go out and believe I can throw a no-hitter. Even last year when I couldn’t get out of the first inning, I took the mound the next start with belief. And I did so this year. If I don’t do that, then I don’t make it where I am now. I don’t have the few good starts towards the end (of the season) if I don’t stay that way.”
His history includes Game 2 of the 2009 World Series in which he held Philadelphia to one run on four hits in seven innings.
He said he would probably watch the video of that outing last night.
“More than likely,” Burnett said. “I do have it on the computer. I haven’t watched in a while, probably not since last year. I watch a lot of video. That would definitely be a good one to watch, for sure.”
Said Derek Jeter:
“A.J.’s capable or shutting guys down. Hopefully tomorrow he’s ready to go, as we know he will be, and gives us an opportunity.
“AJ.’s pitched in big games for us. He’s come through when we needed him.”
Tonight, the whole season relies on his inconsistent, inexplicable, tattooed right arm.
Here’s Burnett, speaking before last night’s game.
Quick reminder that Chad is hosting a chat today at noon. Stop by if you can.
Associated Press photo