By Jon Lane
The Yankees’ magic number to clinch the AL East is 10 games – don’t forget, it’s only four to clinch a playoff berth – but Joe Girardi was quick to say, “I believe this is going to go down to the end.”
Think about it: The Red Sox have won seven of eight and play the lowly Orioles this weekend, while the Yankees are out west to play the Mariners (not easy) and the Angels (you know their history in Anaheim). Making the playoffs isn’t good enough. The Yankees want the division and home field, and are determined not to slip to Wild Card status – I don’t care how many Wild Card teams ended up winning the World Series.
Furthermore, tonight is the start of the rest of the season for A.J. Burnett. Handsomely earning $82.5 million, Burnett is 1-5 with a 6.14 ERA in his last nine starts having allowed 25 earned runs in his last 29 1/3 innings. This man is starting either Game 2 or 3 in the ALDS. He has no choice but to turn it around.
Worse, Felix Hernandez (15-5, 2.52, 193 K) is Burnett’s opponent. King Felix may be 1-3 with a 5.92 ERA in four starts against the Yankees, but he hasn’t faced them since May 3, 2008. If he’s on, Burnett is good enough to be anybody. But when he’s off, whoa boy.