By Jon Lane
I suggested yesterday that Andy Pettitte deserves to start Game 2 of the ALDS ahead of A.J. Burnett. That was more to extol the virtues and merits of Pettitte than to condemn Burnett, who upon first glance has been a frontline starter his first season in New York.
But because there is rarely any middle ground with Burnett, because there have been times when the right-hander has been absolutely electric, it can be frustrating to see a net result of 10-8 with a 4.29 ERA. When he’s on, he takes over a game and captivates a city. When he’s off, whoa boy.
Burnett hasn’t won a game and owns a 6.54 ERA in a seven-start stretch since his last victory on July 27, and that includes the 7 2/3 scoreless innings he tossed against the Red Sox during that Friday night epic at Yankee Stadium. Last night the bad A.J. showed up in Baltimore. He allowed six runs on 11 hits (two home runs) and two walks in 5 1/3 innings and, worse, a television audience saw him lose control of his emotions (again).
You demand excellence from Burnett, for obvious reasons. You also want to see him succeed. He has the talent. He’s stayed healthy. He’s provided life and wisdom to the Yankees’ clubhouse beyond whipped-cream pies. Best of all he’s been accountable. He hasn’t blamed Jorge Posada or anyone and nobody has to tell him he must turn it around.
“I take these as a little bump in the road,” Burnett said. “I’m not going to stew on it too long and let it bring me down, because I thought I turned a good corner the last start and I’ve got to pitch in five days. I can’t let it affect me too much.”
Burnett’s next postseason appearance will be his first and a Game 3 start is not a demotion. It’s either a chance to sweep, a swing game or the nightmare scenario of avoiding an embarrassing sweep. The Yankees are paying Burnett $82.5 million over five years. At times he’s been money. Other times he’s been worth 82 cents. Next month, there is no choice but to be priceless.
? Nick Swisher is hitting .200 at home with 20 RBIs, but .283 on the road with 52 RBIs. Strange, but his overall numbers are 23-72. The Yankees acquired Swisher in an offseason trade with the White Sox for Wilson Betemit. Swishalicious.
? He can sometimes make you want to pull your hair out, but Robinson Cano batted .347 with 19 runs scored and 16 RBIs in August. He’s already set a career high with 22 homers and his.320 overall average is his finest since 2006 (.342). I’ve killed him in this space over his inability to hit with runners in scoring position, but since August 27 he’s bumped his average in that area from .204 to .221.
? Mariano Rivera has saved 34 consecutive games, a personal best, and has 38 on the season. In his last 29 innings, he’s allowed one run while striking out 29. He might pitch forever.
? Jeter Meter: Nine hits from Lou Gehrig’s franchise record (2,721).
? Ian Kennedy threw batting practice for the first time since surgery in May to remove an aneurysm from below his right biceps, another step towards pitching in September’s instructional league and the Arizona Fall League. He’s 1-4 with a 6.14 ERA in 13 Major League games, but Kennedy’s story is far from finished. The humbling experience is maturing him and I see him earning a spot in the Yankees’ rotation within two years.