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Keefe To The City: A.J. Burnett’s Last Chance Live Blog

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(credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

(credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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By Neil Keefe
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9:57: Curtis Granderson just saved the game. Or should I say, “Your 2011 AL MVP just saved the game.” Cory Wade is very lucky. I know he has been good, but for some reason I didn’t like him in that spot, but he gets the job done thanks to an amazing catch.

The book is closed on A.J. Burnett: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR.

I’m not sure what to make of that start yet until after the game when my in-game emotions are gone and I can process it. For now I will give him “OK” and “fair.” Compared to his other starts it was great, but really it was just so-so.

I will go through the Burnett predictions after the game and see who was closest and if anyone perfectly guessed his line.

Thanks for reading the live blog and continue to follow along on Twitter @NeilKeefe.

Did Burnett earn another chance to keep his spot in the rotation? Sadly, I think he did.

9:52: I don’t like Jed Lowrie one bit. I don’t like one thing about him. That’s all. Carry on.

9:50: Not only did Burnett pitch OK, but Boone Logan just got a left-handed hitter out by striking out Crawford. This is a weird game. I don’t know what to think or make of this game.

9:45: The inevitable insurance run for the Red Sox is on the way with two on and one out in the sixth. Joe Girardi comes and pulls A.J. Burnett and he leaves the game responsible for both Pedroia and Ortiz.

It wasn’t a great start and it wasn’t a bad start. Right now it was good, but if both of those runners score it’s no longer good. This isn’t a start that would cut it in the postseason, but with what he has done over the last month, this looks like a shutout. The live blog will continue until the book is officially closed on Burnett.

9:40: Michael Kay telling a story about Pedroia getting hot a few years ago off of Burnett. Who doesn’t get hot against Burnett?

9:37: It figures that the game A.J. Burnett starts the Yankees put 13 men on in six innings and score once. What a disaster.

9:33: And that ladies and gentlemen is how things have gone for the Yankees this series. Hit the ball hard and it goes right to someone. The Red Sox on the other hand hit the ball weakly (Jason Varitek, cough, cough) and they get doubles in the corner off of it. Amazing and awesome.

9:32: Four men on base this inning for the Yankees and so far no runs because of a timely DP from Nunez. Robinson Cano has a chance to make Aceves pay with the bases loaded. No one else I would rather have up right now than Cano.

9:20: Anyone other than Ellsbury running down the line on that play and A.J. has another 1-2-3 inning and a web gem to go with it. Instead it’s a 1-2-1B-3 inning for him. I’ll take it. I’ll take any scoreless inning he can give us no matter what. So far for A.J. it’s 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.

9:15: A.J. Burnett needs all the help he can get to win any game and so far the Yankees have left nine men on base and have given up an out with a runner in scoring position thanks to good old Nick Swisher.

9:10: Chalk that inning up as all Nick Swisher’s fault. What an embarrassment. No one gives away outs like the Yankees. And now no one forgets how many outs there are in the inning like the Yankees. Hey Swisher, don’t worry, it’s only your job.

9:06: I’m so distraught after that bunt from Nick Swisher that I don’t even know what to say. Now if Jesus Montero goes deep here, everything will be OK. Or at least a single.

9:04: Please tell me Nick Swisher is kidding. Seriously, please tell me he is kidding. I just want to break my TV. If he didn’t know how many outs there are, that is inexcusable. I’m on tilt.

8:59: Teixeira doesn’t pop up to lead off the fifth inning. Instead he hits a grounder directly to short. I completely understand. He has somewhere else to be other than at his job tonight. No big deal.

8:55: Burnett’s line is currently at 4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.

8:49: And this is why when you have men on base all game against Jon Lester, you better score. A.J. Burnett has his inevitable “crooked number” inning and just like that the Red Sox have a 2-1 lead. Am I mad? No. Am I surprised? No. It was going to happen, it was just a matter of when. Dustin Pedroia only hits home runs to the first row in the Monster seats. When he hits a bomb to dead center, you know you suck. A.J. Burnett has to know he sucks at this point.

8:45: Leadoff double for Gonzalez and Meltdown Level has gone from “very low” to “low.”

8:41: Derek Jeter keeps Lester’s pitch count going with a strong at-bat and it’s 92 pitches for Lester through four innings. Can A.J. Burnett really pitch a fourth consecutive scoreless inning?

8:30: Umm, that was a 1-2-3 inning. I don’t want to say. I’m speechless and partially crying. I feel like an underdog Oscar winner that is completely shocked and just taken by surprise that they won. I would like to thank my Brian Cashman for making this accomplishment possible. He always believed in A.J.

8:25: Burnett gets his first strikeout as Jarrod Saltalamacchia goes down swinging. You have to love Saltalamacchia. An overhyped prospect that the Braves traded to the Rangers and the Rangers traded to the Red Sox virtually nothing. However he must still think it’s five years ago and that Baseball America is still drooling over him after his sarcastic comments toward Francisco Cervelli the other day. Maybe no one told Salty that he splits time with Jason Varitek, who the Red Sox basically keep around as a mascot at this point. You’re the man, Salty!

8:21: Took a few minutes to eat there. Blogging, tweeting, eating, watching YES, listening to WCBS, GChatting, texting. I feel like Ben Zobrist right now just doing it all. Here comes A.J. Burnett for this third inning. I’m nervous.

8:10: Two scoreless innings on 34 pitches from A.J. Burnett. If Joe Girardi pulled him right now I wouldn’t be mad, I would understand. It might actually be the right move.

So far, I’m impressed. I was expecting for Burnett to struggle at least in the first two innings since that is usually when you find out who he is going to be for the night. But if you scroll down and read the three different types of Burnett Meltdowns, you will know that things can turn at any second. When he takes the mound, don’t get up and get a drink or a snack because it could all unravel before you get back.

There are already a lot of people out of the Predict A.J. Burnett’s Line Pool now that he has made it through two innings. With every out he records, more and more people are out of the contest.

8:07: I rip Mark Teixeira all the time for his offensive struggles, but he makes that throw to second with a runner going to second look so easy. How many times from 2002-2008 did Giambi pick up a grounder and turn to throw and I felt like it would be rolling in the left field grass in a second? Probably somewhere around 439 times.

8:04: A leadoff single for David Ortiz and a flyout for Carl Crawford. I was tempted to move the Meltdown Level from “very low” to “low” but with one out I will keep it where it is.

8:03: I already don’t like the feel to this game and Burnett hasn’t given up a run. I realize that Lester has a pitch count and won’t be able to go more than six innings at the most unless the Yankees decide to take the Martin/Nunez approach and swing at every pitch. But the Yankees have already put six men on base in two innings have scored once. It’s hard to blame Jesus Montero for striking out with the bases loaded in the first at-bat of his career against one of the best pitchers in the league. It’s a little easier to blame Mark Teixeira for doing what he does best: hitting popups.

7:59: The Yankees get a break that the Red Sox would have gotten last night in the inning in which Jason Varitek picked up one of the luckiest doubles in the history of baseball. And Mark Teixeira just popped up again with two on and two out. Makes sense though, this game is already way too long for his liking.

7:57: I got so many predictions for A.J. Burnett’s line and I’m pumped to go through them after the game and see if anyone predicted it perfectly. Thanks to everyone that tweeted one.

7:54: Lester throws 44 pitches in the first inning and now has two outs on four pitches because Russell Martin and Eduardo Nunez are hacking away like they have somewhere to be at 10:00. Good gameplan from the bottom of the order.

7:50: OK, it wasn’t a perfect inning, but it was close enough. I’ll take a 1-2-BB-3 first inning from A.J. Burnett every single time. It would have been nice if he didn’t have to throw 20 pitches to get three outs, but I should just take the scoreless inning and shut up. Meltdown status is at “very low” right now.

7:49: I’m splitting audio time between YES and WCBS. I have had John Sterling on for about one minute and he has already referenced Burnett’s “great stuff.” And now A few seconds later, Suzyn Waldman joins in with a “great stuff” reference. Apparently there is no standard or criteria to getting classified under having “great stuff.” Having 11 losses and 5.29 ERA on a postseason team is good enough for John and Suzyn.

7:46: There goes the perfect game. After the first two hitters were retired, I really thought he was going to do it. Instead he walks Gonzalez and doesn’t get that elusive 1-2-3 first inning.

7:38: Hey, what are you going to do? The good news is that the Yankees scored and made Jon Lester throw 44 pitches. The bad news is that the Yankees only scored one run. The Yankees are going to need A LOT more than one run tonight.

7:34: I asked on Twitter for Andruw Jones to get Jesus Montero up with the bases loaded for his first at-bat in the majors, and here we go. Jesus time!

7:26: Jon Lester is having trouble putting people away early and “This pleases me.” I would advise the Yankees to get AT LEAST one more run in since Lester will eventually find his groove and Burnett might never find his.

7:21: Oh, don’t worry … we will get to Mark Teixeira’s comments to the New York Times later in the blog. The Yankees have a lead in the first inning. How long will it last? Well, probably not that long. But I can dream right?

7:20: Mark Teixeira just got a hit. Yes, like a real hit. I had him at -400 on a popup in his first at-bat.

7:14: Jon Lester scares me more than any other pitcher in the league. I would rather have to face Roy Halladay or Felix Hernandez or Josh Beckett or David Price or Jered Weaver in a game with the Yankees season on the line than face Lester. He has great career numbers against the Yankees (8-2, 3.62), knows how to beat them consistently and he’s a lefty. The worst possible combination for the Yankees despite having seen him plenty of times in recent years.

7:09: How confident do I feel in A.J. Burnett? Not confident at all. But for some odd reason before every Burnett start I get this feeling that maybe, just maybe (OK a big maybe) he might go out and pitch a gem and shut down the opposition. That illusion is usually erased in the first three innings and I feel stupid for thinking that he could ever pitch a great game. Side note: Over/under 6.5 “great stuff” references from the YES booth tonight?

7:04: Here are my three grades of A.J. Burnett meltdowns from June 2010. They still apply today. Hopefully we don’t see any of the three tonight.

Grade 1
Example: June 10, 2010 vs. Baltimore (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL201006100.shtml)

Getting through the first inning with A.J. Burnett is key. If you can get through the first, there’s a chance he will be able to get you through a lot more. A.J. is usually good for allowing at least one run before the Yankees have time to get on the board, but if he can hold the opposition scoreless so the Yankees can take an early lead, you’re in good shape. The problem is you aren’t out of the water yet since there isn’t a lead that is safe with A.J. on the hill.

The meltdown usually starts once the Yankees have given him a lead and he feels it necessary to give it right back. Andy Pettitte did a lot of this in the second half of 2008 before we later found out that he was injured. A.J. Burnett might be the only pitcher that I don’t feel confident with getting out of an inning unscathed with two outs and no one on. Once he gets those first two outs, things can unfold pretty quickly. And when they do, you can no longer control a Grade 1 implosion from becoming …

Grade 2
Example: April 23, 2010 vs. Angels (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ANA/ANA201004230.shtml)

If AJ doesn’t come with his best stuff (which he never does anymore), then there is without a doubt going to be an inning where he allows at least a three spot.

Most starters prepare for games with the mindset that they are going to go out and win the game for their team. A.J. goes out with the idea that he is going to throw a perfect game. The only problem is that after that first walk, he starts to think, “OK, the no-hitter is still intact.” Then after that first hit, he thinks “Well, now I am just going to strike out every hitter.” It’s this mentality that gets A.J. Burnett in trouble. Instead of pitching the way he finally learned how to under Roy Halladay at the end of his Toronto days, A.J. becomes the oft-injured pitcher he was in Florida, trying to knock down the catcher with his fastball like Steve Nebraska. A.J. Burnett isn’t capable of limiting damage and working through men on base the way Andy Pettitte has made a career of doing, and he isn’t capable of working through a game without his best stuff the way CC Sabathia can grind through a start. It’s all or nothing with A.J. Burnett and when it’s nothing, it turns into this …

Grade 3
Examples: May 9, 2010 vs. Red Sox (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS201005090.shtml) and June 21 vs. Diamondbacks (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ARI/ARI201006210.shtml)

This is what we saw on Monday and what we have seen for most of June. It’s like an uncontrollable California forest fire. You think A.J. has had his bad inning for the night and that he will enter cruise control, only to have the game unravel in a matter of pitches (on Monday night it took 15) and once that second crooked number starts to take shape, there is no stopping it until he is removed from the game. The only problem with that is that the game is out of hand by this point and likely out of reach for the offense, so the “loser” relievers (I call them this because they only pitch when the Yankees are losing and also happens to be prime examples of the word) like Chad Gaudin and Boone Logan and Chan Ho Park start to get loose in the ‘pen.

6:59: Anyone who wants to make a prediction of A.J. Burnett’s line tonight can tweet it to me @NeilKeefe. If anyone predicts it perfectly, I will give them two tickets to sit with the Bleacher Creatures in Section 203 at Yankee Stadium this September. Here’s my prediction: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR. That line should be bad enough that it isn’t a good start and just good enough that the debate of whether Burnett or Hughes should be out of the rotation continues.

6:50: Tonight might be the final time A.J. Burnett starts a game for the Yankees in 2011 and I couldn’t be happier. The only problem is that I want the Yankees to win, so we have a little bit of a Catch-22.

Burnett is pitching for his rotation life tonight when he takes the mound against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Like the Jets in 2009, Burnetts hould already be out of the rotation, but he keeps getting help from everyone (mainly Phil Hughes), so he has one last chance tonight.

Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilKeefe

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