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A.J. Burnett’s Effort Helps Yankees Take First Series Against Red Sox of 2011

Russell Martin (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Winning When it Matters

Jon Lester delivered the first pitch to leadoff batter Derek Jeter to start the game; all star against all star. Four hours and twenty one minutes later, two different All Stars faced off, concluding another epic and important series involving the most historic rivalry in all of sports.

A.J. Burnett pitched an impressive 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball, Russell Martin came through in the clutch, and Mariano Rivera dramatically shut the door in the ninth, leading the Yankees to a 4-2 victory against the rival Red Sox. The win capped off the first series win against the Red Sox this season and inched the Yankees closer to their ideal spot in the American League East; first place.

Robinson Cano doubled in Curtis Granderson in the first inning to give the Yankees  a 1-0 lead but the scoring stopped there, leading to missed opportunity after missed opportunity for the Bronx Bombers, who stranded 18 runners on base. The Yankees battled Red Sox starter Jon Lester by taking pitches, fouling tough pitches off, and working the counts. They did what any team would want to do against the tough lefty. They knocked him out early, stayed close, and came through against the bullpen late in the game.

A.J. Burnett’s Night

After the Red Sox took the lead in the fourth inning off of Dustin Pedroia’s two-run home run to dead center, Burnett regained his composure and held the powerful Red Sox lineup to only two runs. Pedroia’s home run proved to be A.J.’s only mistake of the game. His curveball finally showed some life and looked good from the very first batter he faced. Even though A.J. registered only four strikeouts, he kept his pitches low and induced plenty of ground ball outs. A.J. has given up the long ball 25 times this season so keeping the ball on the ground for the most part is definitely a good sign.

Yes, this was only one impressive start out of so many in the past two months. No, he did not get the win. Has he proven himself? No. Is this something to feel good about? Yes.

For once, Burnett is not in the headline with a negative connotation attached to his name. There is no need for him as the scapegoat as he has been every five days for the past two months. No fingers are pointed and no blame is placed. He helped the Yankees win an almost must-win and that’s all that matters, regardless of not getting the win and not pitching past the sixth inning.

Besides keeping the damage to a minimum and the rejuvenation of his curveball, the most important thing about A.J.’s start was the resiliency he finally showed. He gave up five hits and walked two batters and normally that would have led to a lot more than just two runs. He didn’t beat himself up after a walk or a hit and more importantly after Pedroia’s home run.

Is Burnett headed in the right direction? Let’s hope so.

Russell Martin

Russell Martin’s go-ahead double in the seventh proved to be all the Yankees needed to hold off the first place Red Sox. Before Russell came through in the seventh, the Yankees had left men on base every inning and failed to come through with runners in scoring position.

Despite his .240 average, the Yankees could not have asked more out of the 28-year-old backstop. He has provided power in the bottom of the Yankee lineup with his 17 home runs and 60-plus runs batted in. Not much is expected from an everyday catcher up at the plate (except if you’re Joe Mauer) but Russell has done it all, playing stellar defense behind the plate as well.

A Shaky Ninth

Mariano Rivera walks Jed Lowrie to start the ninth. The heart palpatations begin.

Josh Reddick flied out to right, followed by strike-out victim Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Two outs. Heart palpatations occur less and less.

Next batter Jacoby Ellsbury walks. Perspiration begins.

Marco Scutaro singles (of course he gets another hit off of Mariano) and loads the bases for AL MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez. Sweating picks up, heartbeats pick up, and left side of body begins to tingle. Doctors, wake up.

But don’t press the panic button just yet. Mariano strikes out Adrian Gonzalez looking to end the game and prevents numerous trips to the hospital. 

Why so serious? This year has been nothing but disappointment for Yankee fans against the Red Sox.  

I think every Yankee fan is relatively spoiled, hearing Enter Sandman by Metallica in the ninth inning for over 15 years. After witnessing years and years of dominance from the future hall of fame closer, Mariano Rivera is allowed to get us a little nervous and on the verge of slight heart attacks once in a while; just as long as he gets the job done of course. He has definitely earned the right to keep us on the edge of our chairs, getting up after every pitch to pace back and forth before sitting back down only to do it all over again. He has earned the right to keep us vigilant and stray away from our normal “oh the game is over” attitude when he enters the game.

We forgive you, Mo. Just don’t make it a habit, please.

Curtis For MVP?

We know about the home runs, the runs scored, and the runs batted in. In a game where Curtis Granderson hit no home runs, drove no runs in, and scored only one run, another part of his game shinned and gave MVP voters another reason to finally believe in the Grandy Man.

With runners on first and second, Jed Lowrie blooped one into right center. Getting an outstanding jump on the ball, Granderson tracked the ball down and made an outstretched, diving catch, preventing two more runs from crossing the plate and setting the Yankees up to take the lead the very next inning.

There can be plenty of arguments of who the player of the game was Thursday night but we know what the play of the game was and we know who is making a strong case for themselves as Most Valuable Player of the American League.

Curtis Granderson.

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One comment for “A.J. Burnett’s Effort Helps Yankees Take First Series Against Red Sox of 2011”

  1. New Post: A.J. Burnett’s Effort Helps Yankees Take First Series Against Red Sox of 2011 http://t.co/HipNue0

    Posted by Sports of New York | September 2, 2011, 7:06 am

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