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ALDS Game 4: Yankees’ Season Hinges On Inconsistent A.J. Burnett

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(credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – Most Yankees fans see it as a worst-case scenario.

The Detroit Tigers have New York pushed to the brink of elimination at Comerica Park. This time, the Bombers need the wildly inconsistent A.J. Burnett to help them avoid the same fate as five years ago.

“I’ve been proving people wrong my whole career,” Burnett said. “People are entitled to their opinion. Obviously, I give them reasons here and there to doubt. The bottom line is I have confidence in myself. I’m not going to go out and try to prove anything. I’m going to go out and try to win a ballgame.”

Burnett will try to extend this division series to a decisive Game 5 when he takes the mound against the Tigers on Tuesday night.

New York won Game 1 at home Saturday before the Tigers took the next two, winning 5-4 on Monday to lead 2 games to 1.

It’s the same scenario New York faced in 2006 against Detroit, which completed the series win at home in four games. The Tigers went on to win the pennant, but manager Jim Leyland isn’t drawing comparisons.

“Trust me, they’re not going to go away,” he said. “We’ve put ourselves in a decent position, but we’ve still got more to accomplish. So this is a long way from being over.”

The Yankees’ hopes of extending this series rest with Burnett (11-11, 5.15 ERA), who was so unreliable this season that he wasn’t supposed to start versus the Tigers. A rainstorm changed that when Game 1 was suspended Friday night, eliminating the off day after Game 2 and forcing both teams to alter their pitching plans.

“I feel good about what A.J. is going to do for us,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Listen: Girardi after Game 3 loss

Girardi’s confidence may stem from Burnett winning his last two road starts, as he went 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA while striking out 15 in 11 1-3 innings. The right-hander turned in three solid starts in September, two of them coming against Boston.

However, he led the major leagues with 25 wild pitches – eight more than his previous career high and 10 more than anyone else – and posted the second-highest ERA of his career.

“I had good games, bad games during the season,” Burnett said. “You can say the same thing about the postseason, but you can’t count me out.”

Burnett has struggled in his last two postseason starts. He gave up five runs in six innings of a 10-3 loss to Texas in the 2010 ALCS and lasted two innings in Game 5 of the ’09 World Series, allowing six runs in an 8-6 defeat.

“I’m going to bring everything I’ve got,” said Burnett. “And just let A.J. loose out there.”

He’s 2-2 with a 7.17 ERA in four starts at Detroit.

He’ll be opposed by Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.75), who will be making his first career playoff start. The right-hander went 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA in his last seven starts, though he had his problems at home this season, going 5-5 with a 5.64 ERA in 14 outings.

However, he dominated his last two Comerica Park meetings with the Yankees, winning both while yielding two runs in 14 innings – the most recent of which came May 5, when he opposed Burnett in a 6-3 victory.

“Still learning how to be consistent over the course of the season,” Porcello said. “I had some stretches where I threw the ball really well and some stretches where I didn’t throw the ball well. Obviously, I have high expectations for myself, and I don’t think it was nearly as well as I’m capable of pitching over the course of an entire year.”

Porcello will face a New York team that has 11 hits in the last two games, matching its Game 1 total.

Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are the main culprits behind the Yankees’ offensive struggles, as the duo is 1 for 21 in the series.

Rodriguez has batted .167 with five RBIs in his last 12 postseason games, while Teixeira is a .202 hitter with three homers and 12 RBIs in 29 career playoff contests.

Still, Rodriguez claims he isn’t fazed by the issues at the plate.

“My confidence is always there. I’m ready to go,” said Rodriguez, 1 for 24 in seven postseason games versus Detroit.

Do you think Burnett and the Yankees will push the ALDS to Game 5? Sound off in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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