NEW YORK (AP) – After losing two of three to open the AL championship series, New York manager Joe Girardi still remains committed to his plan.
Even with ace CC Sabathia an option to pitch on short rest, Girardi is expected to start struggling right-hander A.J. Burnett for Game 4 as the Yankees try to even the series and prevent the visiting Texas Rangers from a fifth consecutive postseason road victory Tuesday night.
Burnett, who has not pitched since Oct. 2, was dropped from New York’s rotation for the best-of-5 AL division series after going 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA in his final 12 starts. However, Girardi opted to use a four-man rotation for this best-of-7 set because he does not want to bring back Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes on short rest.
Though the majority of Yankee fans likely won’t agree with the decision, Burnett is saddled with trying to help the his team bounce back after Texas took a 2-1 series lead with an 8-0 win Monday at Yankee Stadium.
“We are on rotation, is probably the easiest way for me to put it,” said Girardi, who will not start Sabathia after he allowed five runs in four innings of Friday’s Game 1 comeback victory.
“I don’t think we’re in trouble. It’s frustrating we’ve lost two games in a row, but we’ve lost two games in a row a lot of times before and come back.”
Not worried about the naysayers, Burnett plans to focus on his pitching.
“I hear it everywhere, but I’m not really paying attention to it,” said Burnett, 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA in 33 starts this season. “I don’t dig into it too much.
“I feel great. I feel like I’m where I need to be. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the mound, but I mean, I’m sharp and I expect things to go as normal A.J.”
Burnett was 1-1 with a 5.27 ERA in five postseason starts for New York in 2009, but posted a 1.86 ERA in three at Yankee Stadium. He allowed a run and struck out nine in seven innings of a 3-1 home win over Philadelphia in Game 2 of the World Series.
“I’m going to feed off what I did last year,” Burnett said.
Burnett went 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three starts versus Texas this season. He struck out seven in seven scoreless innings of a 7-3 home win over the Rangers on April 17.
It’s uncertain which teammate will catch Burnett. He was 2-3 with a 7.28 ERA with Jorge Posada behind the plate and 7-10 with a 4.66 ERA when backup Francisco Cervelli caught him this season.
Besides a strong outing from Burnett, the Yankees must also find a way to produce after Cliff Lee held them to two hits over eight innings in Game 3. New York struck out 15 times.
Posada and Brett Gardner each had a hit for the Yankees, who have hit .194 and struck out 30 times in the ALCS. Mark Teixeira is hitless in 11 at-bats in the series after going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Monday.
Former Ranger Alex Rodriguez is 2 for 13 in the series. He is 0 for 4 with three strikeouts against scheduled starter Tommy Hunter, who makes his first appearance at Yankee Stadium.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two home starts against the Yankees. Hunter, who gave up two runs and struck out eight in five innings of a 7-6 win over New York on Sept. 11, appears ready for his first career appearance in the Bronx.
“I had Mom screaming at me when I was 12,” Hunter said. “That’s probably more intimidating than people I don’t know.
“So got to go out there and you’ve got to play baseball, and as soon as you step in between the lines, it’s still a game. Just got to block it out.”
The 24-year-old Hunter allowed three runs and struck out seven in four innings of a 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 4 of the ALDS in his postseason debut.
Josh Hamilton hit a two-run, first-inning homer Monday for the Rangers, who have hit .281 with six homers while going 4-0 on the road this postseason.
“We still have some work to do here,” Lee said. “A lot of fun to come into New York and get this first one. Hopefully we can come out here (Tuesday) and pick up where we left off.”
Though Hamilton has batted .179 while dealing with some broken ribs this postseason, two of his three hits in 10 at-bats versus New York have left the park.
“It’s amazing how you can adjust and adapt to injuries, things that are hurting on you,” Hamilton said. “You can overcome them. So they are not really an issue at this point.”
Texas’ Michael Young is 6 for 15 in the series after recording three hits Monday.
Hamilton and Young are each lifetime .250 hitters against Burnett.
The Rangers have homered in all eight postseason games, longer than any streak they had during the regular season.
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