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Yankees Need Big Start From Burnett

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

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NEW YORK (AP) – August was hardly a great month for the New York Yankees, but the World Series champions ended it on a four-game winning streak and in prime position to defend their title.

Perhaps no one is more excited for the calendar change than A.J. Burnett.

A second dreadful summer month has left the high-paid right-hander’s rotation spot in jeopardy, but Burnett hopes to turn his luck around in September starting Wednesday night against the visiting Oakland Athletics.

Burnett (9-12, 5.17 ERA) was 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA at the end of May, but a pitcher known for being wildly inconsistent has been as fickle as ever over the past three months.

He went 0-5 with an 11.35 ERA in June and followed that by going 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in July, but August saw the bad Burnett re-emerge. The righty capped an 0-4 month by surrendering nine runs over 3 1-3 innings Friday in a 9-4 loss to the White Sox.

“That’s pretty much been my career,” Burnett told the Yankees’ official website of his ups and downs. “I’m strong enough to deal with it. I’m not going to pout. I’m not going into my next start thinking here we go again. It’s a matter of being strong.”

Manager Joe Girardi plans to stick with Burnett for now, but with Javier Vazquez looking good following his demotion to the bullpen and Andy Pettitte working toward a September return, that’s subject to change.

“We’ll watch (A.J.) to see how he’s throwing, and hopefully, he gets on a roll and pitches a really good game,” Girardi said. “There won’t be a sense of panic on our part. We’re going to let the guy pitch; we need him to pitch.”

New York (82-50) doesn’t want anything to change about the way it ended August after beginning it 6-9. The Yankees followed up their rough treatment of A’s ace Trevor Cahill in the opener by chasing Vin Mazzaro early Tuesday, riding homers from Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira to an easy 9-3 win.

Combined with Tampa Bay’s 13-5 loss to Toronto, New York’s fourth straight victory gave it a one-game lead in the AL East.

Burnett held Oakland (65-66) to two runs over seven innings July 7 in a 6-2 road victory, part of a seven-game Yankees winning streak. He’s 3-3 with a 3.81 ERA in his career against the A’s, whom he’s never faced in New York.

Oakland’s rotation began the series with a major league-best 3.36 ERA, but that number is up to 3.49 after Cahill and Mazzaro’s rough outings.

Brett Anderson (3-5, 3.32) can relate. The left-hander gave up four runs and six hits in just two innings Friday at Texas before leaving with a hyperextended right knee.

But after a successful bullpen session Monday in the Bronx, Anderson won’t have to miss a start.

“It went really well,” manager Bob Geren told the A’s official website. “He should be good to go, no problems.”

The southpaw hasn’t faced the Yankees this season, but was 0-2 with a 5.68 ERA in three starts as a rookie in 2009. Derek Jeter, who’s currently in a 2-for-30 slump, is 5 for 10 with a homer against Anderson.

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