A.J. Burnett had an 11.35 ERA last June.
Since the Elias Sports Bureau won't return my calls, I'm unsure if that's the worst month any Yankee pitcher ever had ... but feel free to go ahead and assume it. I can tell you with absolute certainty that it's the worst month ever for a pitcher earning $16.5 million a year.
That Burnett was allowed to return to the mound every fifth day during that putrid stretch last season speaks much to his tantalizing potential, and perhaps more to that bloated salary.
Burnett has been a better pitcher this year. Not a great one, and certainly not any more cost-efficient, but better nonetheless. Look no further than the sixth inning of Wednesday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers. With the Yankees leading by three runs, Burnett was in a jam, the bases loaded and the beastly Prince Fielder at the plate.
If this was last year — and certainly if it was last June — the circumstances would've cracked Burnett. Fielder would've worked the count in his favor and then jacked one up the gap or into the second deck. That's the book on Allan James after all: Get him uncomfortable and he'll fold up like an accordion.
But this version of Burnett stood strong, getting Fielder to ground into a fielder's choice, then retiring Corey Hart on another fielder's choice to end the inning. Damage minimized, the Yankees remained in control.
It was the key sequence in a 5-2 Yankees victory, their fourth in a row and second straight over the NL Central leaders. The Yankees continue to dominate interleague play this season, and upped their June record to 17-8. The Bombers picked up a game on the Red Sox and Rays, who both lost, and now lead the AL East by 2.5 games.
The big blow on offense came from an unlikely source. Russell Martin, who has more or less disappeared after a sizzling start to his pinstripes tenure, turned on a Shaun Marcum fastball in the fourth and put it into the left-field seats for a three-run homer, turning a tie game into a 4-1 advantage. Nick Swisher (RBI single) and Jorge Posada (solo homer) accounted for the other New York runs.
Burnett came out for the eighth, but was unable to get an out thanks to yet another throwing error by the overmatched (on defense, anyway) Eduardo Nunez. Joe Girardi lifted Burnett after the miscue, and David Robertson came in and escaped trouble while adding two more strikeouts to his ledger. Robertson has been an absolute godsend this season, lowering his ERA to 1.11. If he doesn't make the All-Star Game, no middle reliever should.
One Yankee reliever who we know will be in Arizona is Mariano Rivera. The G.O.A.T. pitched another 1-2-3 inning for his 21st save of the season. I almost feel bad watching National Leaguers try to hit Rivera's cutter. I said almost.
- YES really fell in love with Kevin
LoveLong reaction shots during Martin at-bats tonight. We get it, guys. The hitting coach is working with the dude that can't hit.
- Speaking of Martin, the homer marked his first extra-base hit in 68 at-bats. Makes you want to pray for Jesus.
- If you're a grown person who votes 25 times for All-Stars on yankees.com, you definitely bring your glove to games. I'll bet everything I have.
- I would've Jason Street'd myself if I ran into a wall the way Nyjer Morgan did on Robinson Cano's fourth-inning triple. Pretty incredible he shook it off.
- Burnett has now completed at least five innings in all 18 of his starts. He was chased from five games before the sixth inning during his nightmare 2010 season. Michael Kay's enormous head told me this.
- Nice touch by PA crew at the Stadium, playing Tom Petty classic "The Waiting" during the review of Posada's homer. Much appreciated, fellas.
- Mo Vaughn's earrings cost more than my college education.
- The Yankees have traded for the recently DFA'd Sergio Mitre, leading to an irrational bout of anger in the comment section. Cashman is piling up more bodies than Bulletmore, Murderland.
Dan Hanzus is a regular contributor to Pinstripe Alley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danhanzus.