After an awful 2010 followed by an improved spring training in which Yankee fans were cautiously optimistic about new pitching coach Larry Rothschild‘s tweaking of the enigmatic righthander’s mechanics, all eyes were on A.J. Burnett entering Saturday afternoon’s start. Burnett wasn’t great, but he was serviceable enough, throwing 5 innings of three-run ball, though more encouraging were the peripherals — six strikeouts against one walk.
Unfortunately after coming out of the gate on fire striking out four of the first six batter he faced, it looked like Burnett began to tire, and he began the fifth inning yielding three straight hits. Though he was able to get out of the inning only giving up two runs, the Yankee lead was cut in half, and despite having thrown only 86 pitches Joe Giradi opted to go to his bullpen to start the 6th inning. Despite a couple of hiccups — Luis Ayala gave up a two-run bomb to Victor Martinez in his two innings of relief work — the bullpen mostly managed to get the job done, and the Yankees dumped the Tigers for the second straight game, winning 10-6.
Of course, the other major story of the game was the offense, which continued to absolutely rake. After dropping three on Tiger starter Brad Penny in the first inning, Mark Teixeira unloaded for the second straight game, hitting another mammoth three-run bomb into the right field seats that staked the Yankees to a 6-0 lead. In the fifth, Russell Martin wasted little time endearing himself to the Yankee faithful, pumping a three-run blast of his own. And Alex Rodriguez got in on the action as well, welcoming rookie Brayan Villarreal with a booming solo shot in the youngster’s first Major League appearance. All told the Yankees pounded out 12 hits (and the damage could have been even worse, as they stranded 15 runners), and almost everyone in the starting lineup has looked about as locked in as one could hope with perhaps the exception of Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada (though to Jorge’s credit he did walk twice today).