No, it wasn’t his most dominant game, or his best final line. In fact, his final line wasn’t really that impressive in raw terms, thanks in large part that included 3 walks (2.5 of them unintentional), and then a home run by Victor Martinez in the 4th. And even though that solo home run would be the only blemish on Burnett’s line this night, he needed a tremendous, acrobatic catch by Curtis Granderson to get him out of that first inning.
But all of that considered, no one could have asked for anything more out of A.J. tonight. Not after the way he’s pitched for two years now. Not with everything that’s been written about him by the local media, as recently as Tuesday morning. Not with the pressure of an elimination game on his shoulders. With all of that swirling around him, and despite making it more interesting than we would all like at some points in the game, A.J. took the mound and made the pitches he needed to make when he needed to make them. There isn’t anyone among us who wouldn’t have gladly taken 5.2 innings of one run ball from Burnett tonight, or who wouldn’t have been very bullish on the Yankees’ odds in this game with that effort from the starter.
Now the series heads back to Yankee Stadium for a deciding fifth game. Game 1 starters Ivan Nova and Doug Fister will be back on the bump for the second time in the series, looking to get their respective teams to the ALCS to face the defending A.L. champions. We’ve got two whole days to break down and dissect that contest in every way possible prior to first pitch, and you can be sure we’ll be doing just that here at IIATMS.But for now, I’m just happy for A.J. The struggles of the past two seasons notwithstanding, by all accounts Burnett has been nothing but a tremendously hard worker and a fabulous teammate, showing up every day to do his job and to make himself a better pitcher. It hasn’t always worked out, and when it has it hasn’t necessarily lasted, but truth be told, I just appreciate the way A.J. conducts himself. I appreciate that he takes the ball every turn, never makes excuses, and never seems ready to give up.
Tonight, A.J. Burnett is the hero, the pitcher who saved the season for at least another 48 hours. Even accounting for Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, I think this has to be the high point of his tenure with the Yankees, if only because, for as big of a game as it was, Game 2 wasn’t actually an elimination game. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier for A.J., no matter how Game 5 plays out.
So now the series returns to the Bronx, where both teams will be fighting a win or go home battle with their number two starter on the mound and everyone, including their respective aces, available out of the bullpens. At Yankee Stadium. This is what October baseball is all about.
All that’s missing is some mystique and aura.