AJ silences 11 batters/legions of critics in 3-2 rubber match win


EXACTLY what we needed. On all fronts.

The Scranton Triple A New York Yankees beat the Angels today, taking 2 of 3 in Anaheim for the first time since 2004. They can beat anyone, and have. Once again, Girardi demonstrated a method to his madness. With Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Johnny Damon, and Jorge Posada notably absent from the starting lineup, the task of detaching the leech-like monkey on their backs fell on the shoulders of the B-listers.

Well, the B-listers and more importantly, AJ Burnett, who's been the subject of rampant chatter regarding his reliability come postseason. If I had to read one more iteration of "mounting concerns over starter Burnett who was acquired in the offseason for $82,500,000 and who's 1-5 with a 6.14 since the start of August," my head was going to fall off and/or explode.

I guess AJ felt the same because in his last 2 starts, he basically looked around, scowled, and hissed, "Take notes, %^&holes."

Tonight, the enigma that is AJ blanked 11 batters in less than 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks. In the time it took me to leave work, hop on the subway, and walk back to my apartment, the Yankees had already gone through 3 relievers, and were on #4. They didn't waste much time weening Ian Kennedy back into his pitching duties. And by weening, I mean the equivalent of blindfolding him, stripping him down to his boxers, walking him into the middle of a campus quad, and then taking off with his clothes. Welcome back, kid.

The Yanks staked AJ to a 3-0 lead with a 2-out 2-run RBI double from Robinson Cano, and a run-scoring single immediately after off the bat of Melky Cabrera. It would be all they scored and all they'd need to. Scott Kazmir, who historically has been poison to NY's offense, was manhandled with thick pitch counts. If you can't hit 'em, sit on 'em. And it worked. The typically strikeout hurler threw 112 pitches over 6 innings, let up 3 runs, and only blanked 4--the Yanks beat the Angels at their own game.

Anaheim didn't score until the 5th, when Bobby Abreu grounded out to 2nd to score Mike Napoli. Their only other run came in the bottom of the 6th after AJ had struck out Kendry Morales and Howie Kendrick. Gary Matthews drove in Juan Rivera, who reached home from first.

Then the reliever parade marched in shortly thereafter--an uneventful string of outings until Ian Kennedy, looking about as relaxed as a 90-year driver, loaded the bases with 2 walks and a HBP. No hits though, and he escaped unscathed. His surgeon, however, may have some words for Girardi about what constitutes "easing into things."

After Mariano Rivera put a man on and struck out 2 in the bottom 9th, I started to get the nasty deja vu sensation that AJ must have also been choking on. How bad would Mo have felt if he wasted AJ's second consecutive solid outing? It was only 5 days ago, and the "he's human" line is like a subway card that can't be reused right away.

But they pulled it off. Again. Stuck it out, weathered the comeback, and made it out of the game alive. The magic number's down to 5, but the more valuable output of the game is perhaps what this did for the Yankees' confidence. They can beat the Angels in Anaheim. It may not be easy, but it can be done.

So I suspect Roosevelt was referring to the west coast when she said, "I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along."

Time to usher the Red Sox into the Bronx... and then usher them out with their Wild Card door prize.

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