Funny that A.J. Burnett said he cant remember much about his kaboom start against the Phillies in the Bronx in May, but Pedro Martinez seems to recall every detail of every nanosecond he spent at the old Yankee Stadium, and in fact each moment inside the city of New York, and probably which of Don Zimmers fingers first touched him during their still remarkable brawl.
I wonder if the Phillies were not reminded by the travails of Brad Lidge of the intensity and focus required to win a Worlds Championship, while the Yankees might have begun to believe all of the exaggerated things written about them in the New York papers. They still dont seem even slightly worried, and given that Burnett has proved himself the most easily rattled pitcher since Nuke LaLoosh, they should be.
So the scenario has almost completely played out: Joe Girardi’s misuse of his bullpen, and the forces of nature, have combined to push Game Six of the ALCS to Sunday. It is a game that likely will determine whether or not Girardi is still Yankee manager on the 15th of next June.
Game One, Wednesday, New York: Burnett
Game Two, Thursday, New York: Gaudin? Chamberlain?
Game Three, Saturday, Philadelphia: Sabathia*
Game Four, Sunday, Philadelphia: Pettitte*
Game Five, Monday, Philadelphia: Burnett
Game Six, Wednesday, New York: Game Two Starter or Sabathia*
Game Seven, Thursday, New York: Sabathia* or Pettitte*
Game One, Wednesday, Anaheim: Lackey
Game Two, Thursday, Anaheim: Saunders*
Game Three, Saturday, Philadelphia: Weaver
Game Four, Sunday, Philadelphia: Kazmir* or Lackey
Game Five, Monday, Philadelphia: Lackey or Kazmir*
Game Six, Wednesday, Anaheim: Saunders*
Game Seven, Thursday, Anaheim: Weaver
Game One, Wednesday, Anaheim: Lackey
Game Two, Thursday, Anaheim: Kazmir*
Game Three, Saturday, Philadelphia: Saunders*
Game Four, Sunday, Philadelphia: Weaver
Game Five, Monday, Philadelphia: Lackey
Game Six, Wednesday, Anaheim: Kazmir*
Game Seven, Thursday, Anaheim: Saunders*
1 HR, 8 RBI, .178 BA, .290 OBP, .290 SLG. (107 At Bats)
5 HR, 25 RBI, .235 BA, .305 OBP, .417 SLG. (115 At Bats)
I know, I know – the Yankees have not even made the World Series yet. George Steinbrenner would file a protest if somebody told him I was already picking them to beat the Phillies.
* better LH than RH
Game One, Wednesday 10/28, @ New York: Sabathia*
Game Two, Thursday 10/29, @ New York: Burnett
Game Three, Saturday 10/31, @ Philadelphia: Pettitte*
Game Four, Sunday 11/1, @ Philadelphia: Sabathia* or ?
Game Five, Monday, 11/2, @ Philadelphia: Burnett, ? or Sabathia*
Game Six, Wednesday, 11/4 @ New York: Pettitte* or Burnett
Game Seven, Thursday, 11/5 @ New York: Sabathia* or Pettitte*
It’s a slightly more daunting task than beating the Rockies with no lefty starters, and then flummoxing a slumping Clayton Kershaw and beating, in a do-or-die game for the other team, a starter who was released by Texas two months ago and on whom you can always rely – he’ll always let you down. And they don’t have a power plug-in for the DH in The Stadium (unless Charlie Manuel were to pull a real rabbit out of his hat, like John Mayberry, Jr.).
OK, not that sick. Just enough.
OK, I might have to completely revise my assessment of the Yankees. In the Bronx last night, in one of the ten best baseball games I’ve ever attended, the New York club tied it on Rodriguez’s homer, benefitted from a horrible call in rightfield, staved off bases loaded and none out on Robertson’s pitching, and got the winning run on Teixeira’s parabola off the top of the left field wall.
Carlos Ruiz’s sinking liner meets Brad Hawpe’s ole’ play and the Phillies extend a 1-0 lead over the Rockies in the fifth. An inning later, Carlos Gonzalez plays pin ball with his own body, and Ryan Howard’s screamer to left – and then Utley sticks Dexter Fowler against the centerfield fence like a butterfly stuck in a collection. I know the wind was in the 40’s – my home in New York was creaking the Pequod going after Moby-Dick.
At their current trajectory, the Yankees are going to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Here in the Bronx, A.J. Burnett – to my thinking the most important player on the roster – has again succumbed to the yips, and, for the fourth time in his last nine starts, surrendered six or more runs – twice in twelve days to the less-than-daunting Orioles. As on Monday, Burnett, staked to a 1-0 lead, wobbled in the second, giving up a blast to Nolan Reimold and then walking Matt Wieters with one out. There followed three successive singles – the last two of them dink hits by Aubrey and Andino – and then the almost predictable kaboom: a crushed and crushing grand slam by Brian Roberts.
Burnett’s ability to handle misfortune – or even ordinary adversity – seems to be declining. And as was speculated here in the press box by Pete Caldera of The Bergen Record, on what can the Yankees depend if they were to lose a Sabathia playoff opener 1-0 and had to hand the ball to Burnett in an essential second game? More daunting still, until today Burnett had made 14 starts at Yankee Stadium and only once given up more than three.
What would the Giants look like in the post-season without Tim Lincecum? What about the Yankees if the A.J. Burnett they get is last month’s, not Monday night’s?