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A.J. Burnett steps up against Tigers as Yankees force fifth game

Oct 5, 2011, 12:13 AM EDT

New York Yankees Burnett pitches to the Detroit Tigers during the first inning of Game 4 in their MLB  American League Division Series baseball playoffs in Detroit

Craig did his best to talk everybody off the ledge this morning in regard to A.J. Burnett, but even the most optimistic among us had absolutely no idea what pitcher we were going to see tonight against the Tigers. Now that the dust has settled, it fair to say that the enigmatic right-hander exceeded all expectations.

Burnett allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings while the offense provided plenty of support as the Yankees topped the Tigers 10-1 to force a deciding fifth game in the ALDS.

Burnett was good enough, throwing 49 out of 81 pitches for strikes while striking out three and walking four. He induced 10 ground ball outs. The first inning was almost a complete disaster, as he walked Victor Martinez to load the bases with two outs, but Curtis Granderson was able to make a leaping catch on a fly ball off the bat of Don Kelly to end the threat.

This was actually a 4-1 game before the Yankees exploded for six runs on seven hits off four relievers in the top of the eighth inning. Alex Rodriguez kicked off the rally with a single, snapping an 0-for-12 mini-slump in the series. The game took on a decidedly different tone from that point forward.

With the series now tied 2-2, the teams will play a deciding fifth game Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Ivan Nova will be on the mound for the Yankees while Doug Fister pitches for the Tigers.

Notes

- The last time Burnett allowed one earned run or less in a start? June 13.

- Victor Martinez provided the only offense of the night for the Tigers, slugging a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. It was the first hit allowed by Burnett.

- While Curtis Granderson made a nice recovery to catch a ball he misjudged in the first inning, his diving catch to end the bottom of the sixth inning was even better. He skidded for about five feet on the Comerica Park grass after making the sprawling grab. The AL MVP candidate also had an RBI double in the victory.

- Rick Porcello allowed four runs on five hits while walking one and striking out five. He was hurt by leaving pitches up in the strike zone, which explains why he induced seven ground balls compared to seven fly balls. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 51.9 percent career ground ball rate.

- Wilson Betemit went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in the loss. Including the postseason, he has struck out in 39.8 percent of his at-bats since joining the Tigers.

- Jesus Montero had an RBI single in the six-run eighth inning and added another single in the ninth. The only other Yankees to get a postseason hit at 21 years old or younger? Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. No pressure, kid.

- 11 of the Yankees’ 13 hits tonight were singles.

- And we’ll leave you with this from our friend Joe Sheehan of SI.com: The Yankees haven’t won a deciding game (G5/G7) since the Aaron Boone game in 2003.

  1. bigharold - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    “… but even the most optimistic among us had absolutely no idea what pitcher we were going to see tonight …”

    Not so!. I said eariler today that all things considered he was the reverse lock and predicted 7 innings of shut out ball. OK, so he only went 5 2/3 and gave up a run.

    AJ had’em right where he wanted them. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    • thekcubrats - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:11 AM

      Leyland lost the game when he had the second batter throw away an out. A bunt, in the first inning, against a fragile, dreadful self-immolating arsonist? When you’re not exactly pitching an ace yourself, and both teams seem primed to score in double digits? AJB couldn’t find the plate. That gift out got him out of an inning he seemed determined to make a huge one for Detroit. And if you don’t get the Yanks starters early, big and early…

      • bigharold - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:20 AM

        Granderson’s catch in the first inning was more important.

        Sure, the Tigers took a hit with the pop up bunt but that was pretty much a small ball move. The way the Yankees were hitting I’m not sure you could call that the game.

        On the other hand, that ball get over Granderson’s head it’s a minimum three runs if not four. That would change the entire complexion of the game and it’s a BP fire drill from then on.

      • thekcubrats - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:42 AM

        Uh, dude? AJB was willing to load the bases quick, notice? balls a foot outside, a half foot high, flirting with WP every other pitch. Santiago didn’t even try to work the count. And? Granderson misplayed that ball, breaking in, to make it look like a good play, which it wasn’t. But without the bunt, something like that could’ve easily been a sac fly with a run already in, and yet another batter following for AJB to put on or give up another drive to, perhaps not an at’em ball like that one. A drive caught is one thing. Throwing away an out, to a chump pitcher like that spiraling down a drain of his own devise? That’s how you turn a likely win into a loss, instanter.

      • ssazz - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:33 PM

        “A likely win”?

        I guess you didn’t notice that the Yankees put a ten spot up on the board last night. You can assume the Tigers even get to double digits in runs if AJ gives up 3 or 4 in first before getting pulled if you want, but with the Yankees bullpen more than ready to go in that game once he’s gone I surely wouldn’t go so far as to call it “likely”.

  2. zakharovsa - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    Yankees rule.

  3. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    And we’ll leave you with this from our friend Joe Sheehan of SI.com: The Yankees haven’t won a deciding game (G5/G7) since the Aaron Boone game in 2003.

    Yankees haven’t been in a G7 since ’04. So once again, people who don’t understand statistics, please stop using them to make a point.

    • bigharold - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:47 AM

      Why? If logic and reason was required baseball/sports/political blogs would be empty.

    • D.J. Short - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:52 AM

      Well, two of them, actually. Lost in the 2005 ALDS to the Angels, 2004 ALCS to the Red Sox. I’m not sure Sheehan meant to say they have routinely lost in deciding games as much as pointing out that it’s been a while (for them, anyway) since they have won a deciding game.

  4. halladaysbiceps - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    Good. I was pulling for this victory by the Yankees. I want a 2009 rematch between the Phillies and the Yankees so bad my balls are hurting. Please, finish off the Tigers. As a Phillies fan, I only want to face the Yankees. Anybody else, I would feel cheated.

    • bigharold - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:49 AM

      Careful what you wish for cause sometimes it’s exactly what youget, .. but don’t expect.

      By the way, try icing those puppies.

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:52 AM

        The Phillies will fulfill their end of the bargain. The Yankees need to do the same. Let me ask you, do you want to face and possibly beat the Phillies in the World Series again? Do you want to face the Phils? Or the Brewers or Cards?

      • bigharold - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:03 AM

        Could not actually care less. The only thing I’m concerned about is getting past the Tigers. If the Yankee can accomplish that hen I’ll concern myself with the Rangers. If they can win Thursday, get past the Rangers then I’ll concern myself with the NL WS representative.

        By the way, don’t you think it’s just a bit presumptuous to assume the Phils have a WS birth locked up? They haven’t beat the Cards yet, let alone the Brewers or DBacks.

        There is no reason for Yankee fans to want to get even with the Phils, .. they beat them in six in 2009. Don’t you remember?

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:16 AM

        bigharold,

        It’s not presumptuous at all to think that the Phillies will get to the World Series. This team is built to do so, and win it all. If the Phillies don’t make the World Series, it will be one of the biggest collapses in MLB history.

        I just wanted to introduce myself in advance to you when the Yankees meet the Phillies in the WS. I’m not sure you know me, but I am the bicepts.

      • bigharold - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:25 AM

        “I’m not sure you know me, but I am the bicepts.”

        No kidding? Really? Thinking the Phils are a lock is still a risky proposition.

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:40 AM

        bigharold,

        I like your moxie. It is not even considered a proposition in Philly if the Phillies make the series. It is considered fact. If this team doesn’t make the playoffs, they will be stung up and run out of town. They are a lock with the rotation of Hallayday, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt. We will seal the deal tomorrow.

        We need the Yankees to do the same. We need the Yankees in the World Series. It is a must.

    • henryd3rd - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:59 PM

      Don’t overlook the Brew Crew baby. Those dudes can hit pitch and run. And let’s not ignore their bullpen! Plus Phillie already has a “Dream team” in the Eagles and everyone knows that they’ll be the eventual Super Bowl Champs! Right? Right? Well that’s what Vince said during training camp.

  5. bigharold - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:44 AM

    I’m really tired of hear how Granderson isn’t that good defensively.

    He didn’t misjudge that ball in the first inning because 1. he caught it and 2. it is the type of hit that is very difficult to read. Bottom line is he made the play.

    “.. his diving catch to end the bottom of the sixth inning was even better. He skidded for about five feet …”

    That catch he made in sixth was abosofreakinlutely great. And, he slide a damn site more than five feet.

    Spare me from the geek squad. Granderson is an excellent CFer.

    The guys the design these defensive metric are likely guys that never actually played the game. Although they like were captain of the math team in HS.

    • cur68 - Oct 5, 2011 at 12:56 AM

      Harry, I described that slide thusly “He slid about 8 meters using his groin as a rudder. You’d be slow to get up too…” in reply to someone worrying about Grandy’s health.

      Know what they wrote back? “What’s a meter?”. Comedy gold and that’s the reply, yeesh. 8 Meters, BTW, is about 25 feet, so perhaps I overstated, but using your groin as a rudder and going even 5 feet is worth the extra 20 in my view.

      Grandy be the sack.

      • bigharold - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:09 AM

        “You’d be slow to get up too…”

        If I’d have made that dive and slide I’d have laid here until the parametrics with the stretcher showed up.

        “What’s a meter?”.

        Yeah the metric system never really took hold. Of course that’s no reason to be ignorant. And, yes Granderson is the man.

      • cur68 - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:15 AM

        I’d way rather Bautista for MVP, but its hard seeing Grandy play D like that, hit bombs, steal bases and have a great time doing it and not root for the guy, Yankee and all.

        Let us hope Aquaman has gotten over his hissy fit and will let us enjoy some dry baseball @ Yankee Stadium.

      • camleck - Oct 5, 2011 at 1:39 AM

        haha classic, the metric system never really took hold? it did everywhere other than america

      • bigharold - Oct 5, 2011 at 2:40 AM

        “it did everywhere other than america”

        That’s America swifty. Capital A.

      • cktai - Oct 5, 2011 at 5:53 AM

        The guys who care about the capitalization of America are likely guys that never actually played baseball. Although they like were captain of the linguistic pedantic team in HS.

      • kopy - Oct 5, 2011 at 9:29 AM

        Capitalization? How do you capitalize an apostrophe? It’s spelled ‘merica.

  6. thephilsabide - Oct 5, 2011 at 5:41 AM

    The Phillies are far from a “lock” for the World Series. Should they get there? Of course. But what should happen and what does happen are very often two different things. That said, I like their chances today with Lil Roy on the mound, as long as he throws like he did his last few starts of the season. And if he doesn’t, they’ll have Big Ben or Ross Gload or perhaps even Wilson Valdez pull a random, unexpected homerun out of their ass to bail him out. Because that “should” happen, right? GO PHILS

  7. uyf1950 - Oct 5, 2011 at 5:45 AM

    Give credit where credit is due. We are all quick to jump all over AJ and rightfully so but on this day he pitched decently one could even say he pitched pretty good after the 1st inning. Sure Granderson’s catch in the 1st inning probably changed the whole dynamics of the game but isn’t that what baseball is about. Argue if you like whether he misjudged it or not the fact is he caught it and that’s all that matters.

    Now after 166 games it all comes down to 1 game to see if the Tigers or the Yankees move on to the ALCS. This series has pitted 2 pretty evenly matched team teams against each other. What I like best about game 4 aside from the fact that the Yankees won is that all the players contributed offensively and that’s a good thing.

    Thursday’s 5th and final game in this series should be an exciting one. Don’t bet against against the Yankees reversing Mr. Short’s stat about the Yankees not winning a deciding game 5 or 7 since 2003. The Yankees may just surprise you.

  8. proudlycanadian - Oct 5, 2011 at 6:17 AM

    Who knows who will show up when A. J. takes to the mound? It is a complete mystery.

  9. Jonny 5 - Oct 5, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    I’m glad to see something good happen for AJ. He probably deserves it. Being left out of the playoff rotation stung him I’m sure, and he has proven that maybe, he may be better than CC on short rest. Maybe. But the question will be bouncing around in Joe’s head now. Good for him.

  10. Old Gator - Oct 5, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    That eighth inning was some kinda nightmare for the Tiggers. Nothing went right. Yes, the Borg kept nickel and diming them with infield singles, seeing-eye singles, bloop singles and even the occasional line drive single, but let’s not overlook the walk, balk and wild pitch fiesta to which the Tiggers treated them. Anyone happen to keep track of how long the top of the eighth lasted? I think some of my tropical fish began evolving lungs and legs by the third out.

  11. sparky1002 - Oct 5, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    Anyone heard from the great Valverde concerning his prediction that the Yankees were all done and wouldn`t leave Detroit without being totally defeated?

    • Old Gator - Oct 5, 2011 at 8:48 AM

      I think Slobbering Ozzie should reach out to Valverde to join the Feesh, along with his classy pal Carlos Zambrano. Clowns everywhere!

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 5, 2011 at 9:18 AM

        Watch what you “think” for Gator……… Remember when you “thought” Loria wanted Ozzie…. after Freddie got canned…. Your cortex must be emitting your Beta Alfa Theta Delta’s all at once in a death ray form like Antonio Longoria claimed to have invented. Maybe you should start thinking good thoughts about future players????

    • protectthishouse54 - Oct 5, 2011 at 9:39 AM

      This is why closers should never speak. They don’t have enough effect on the game. At least he’s so stupid that people will just blow it off instead of actually holding him responsible for that “prediction”.

  12. Francisco (FC) - Oct 5, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    It was quite placid in the Lair as Craig reviewed the morning reel of A.J.’s performance. The Blue Danube was playing in the background along with the slow motion scenes of Burnett’s pitches. In the first scene Craig saw him throw a fastball as it fell gracefully… for ball four. Not the way you wanted to start a game, but it did get better as the night wore on. In the beginning it seemed that A.J. would have a typical A.J. disaster of a game but he somehow got the outs, or rather his team-mates bailed him out consistently.

    Another graceful ball from A.J…. and Santiago puts wood on it… as he bunt popped it into the air… the ball sailed… A.J. looking at it, Martin looking at it, Ramon looking at it, EVERYONE following the trajectory as if in a tennis match… and there was A-Rod with an intense face of concentration charging the bunt… and the scene shifted as the ball fell towards the earth from multiple angles and Alex neatly caught it in his glove for the out…

    Truly remarkable, at times effective but very wobbly, these scenes would continue for quite a while. Low sinker… ball four… inside fastball… strike three… One out, two outs, three outs. Inning after inning… Sinker… ground ball, Jeter fields it… out at first… Fastball… hit… double off the wall… really it seems the guy was teetering on the edge of disaster for 5 innings.

    Then came Victor Martinez… fastball… wood on the ball… ball sailed up… and up… Martin looks up, A.J. looks up, Victor looks up… Swisher looked up and didn’t bother to go after it as the ball fell into the stands… among dozens of cheering fans… jumping up and down… waving silly rally towels…

    But it didn’t matter, the Yankees would prevail eventually 10 to 1 and the Danube played on… Craig looked to his right on his side table. The A.J. Burnett bobble-head had a tag reading: I saved the Yankees! Craig looked at the figure putting his pipe in his mouth puffing a few bubbles. He merely replied: “You keep thinking that A.J. Hold on to that thought and cherish it.”

  13. frankvzappa - Oct 5, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    Would it be possible to read one article about Burnett that doesn’t include the word “enigmatic”? How many goddamn words in the english language? and you clowns can’t think of anything else, ever?

    • frankvzappa - Oct 5, 2011 at 9:29 AM

      Holy crap! Am I actually unbanned? (waits for collective groans to subside)…Perhaps that was a bit too harsh, but to be fair I didn’t think that would post…

    • yankeesfanlen - Oct 5, 2011 at 9:42 AM

      But the word has to have “matic” in it…..Dogmatic?…..Pneumatic?…..Ford-O-Matic?

  14. DaGooch1979 - Oct 5, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    I’ll admit, watching that first inning, I thought that AJ was going to blow up and that was going to be the end of the season . . .

    Then Granderson makes that catch and I said to myself “I wonder if that will be the turning point.”

    I have to say AJ pitched well, even though every inning, I wondered when the meltdown would occur. Thankfully it didn’t.

    • acerob2002 - Oct 5, 2011 at 10:25 AM

      I agree with you on that one. When he gave up the home run and then it was followed with the double I wanted him out of the game.

  15. aceshigh11 - Oct 5, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    I had a feeling that A.J. Burnout would step up…it just seemed like such a foregone conclusion that he’d choke that the contrarian view seemed more likely.

    Looks like the Yankees are in the driver seat with Nova on the mound tomorrow.

    So there’s NO chance Leyland uses Verlander, right?

    • brianbowman16 - Oct 5, 2011 at 11:05 PM

      As most of you fans know (or are about to know), the Tigers hadn’t seen Nova before last week. With their season on the line, as talented (or a product of the Yankees 7 trillion dollar team) as he is, I really doubt he will have such an easy game against a lineup that was set for a left hander. Anyone who even mildly follows baseball knows that Jim Leyland uses different lineups for the lefty/righty starting pitchers.
      I am hoping that the lineup that Nova WOULD have faced will get to him, and that Fister pitches like he has for most of his time with my beloved Tigers.
      I want some damn revenge for ’06 and the only way to do that is take the yankees out and head to Arlington.

      GO TIGERS!!!!!!!

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