Don’t cry for me, A.J.-tina
The Yankees’ season is on the line. They trail the Tigers 2-1 in the ALDS. So, naturally, they must look to… A.J. Burnett.
For Mets fans, that’s like bringing in Luis Castillo as a ninth-inning defensive replacement in a do-or-die game (do-or-die games are what good teams get to play sometimes).
The Bronx Bombers are holding out for a hero, and most fans would rather see Bonnie Tyler than A.J. on the mound. It’s not that the Yanks “must” turn to Burnett; rather, after a rain-suspended Game 1 pushed Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia each up one game, Joe Girardi couldn’t use the three-man rotation he’d envisioned. So he used C.C. Sabathia in Game 3 instead, and the Yanks’ ace couldn’t come through. So, left with a choice between a beleaguered has-been in Burnett and an almost-was in Phil Hughes, Girardi is sticking with his “veteran.”
The two share similarly underwhelming postseason numbers. Burnett is 1-2 with a 5.67 ERA in 33.1 innings, while Hughes is 2-3 with a 5.86 in 27.2. Both pitched well enough in September, with Hughes offering a little more quality and Burnett a little more quantity.
Regardless of how Joe “not Torre” Girardi made his decision, he’s sticking to it, and the Yanks will have to hope for the least bad. This is as big a chance as ever for A.J. going to get to finally take the spotlight and shine. He did have four good games in the 2009 postseason, but then again, 2009 was by far his least bad year as a Yankee, a mid-distanced cry away from his struggles of 2010 and 2011.
There is one thing that fans can be sure of: Girardi’s hook will be faster than Frazier’s if A.J. starts to struggle. Burnett’s leash was short all of August and September, so don’t be surprised to see Larry Rothschild on the phone after Mr. Softee walks the first batter of the game. Remember, this is not about Burnett banishing his demons. It’s win or go home for these guys.
Good luck, Yankees fans. On the bright side, if there’s one thing that can shut John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman up faster than Derek Jeter striking out to end a ninth-inning rally, it’s a few early runs off of Burnett. It’s sure to be an emotional roller coaster all game, but Bombers fans will have a Game 5 to look forward to if Burnett doesn’t, well, bomb.