After losing last night 5-4 to the Detroit Tigers, the New York Yankees now must rely on a finicky, talented yet inconsistent pitcher. In other words: A.J. Burnett.
A.J. Burnett invokes fear and anger out of most Yankees' fans for his inconsistent pitching efforts. No one has ever doubted that Burnett has strong stuff -- it's why the Yankees awarded him an $82 million contract -- but Burnett often gets in his own head and breaks down on the mound.
Burnett on the year was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA but you had to really watch the Yankees on a consistent basis to know the phenomenon that is A.J. Burnett. A typical Burnett outing could consist of four shutout innings to start off the game only to give up a few home runs and six runs in the fifth inning to blow the game.
He's a complete enigma. He's laughing at one point while rubbing shaving cream in Nick Swisher's face after a game-winning hit, only to be melting down the next day after a bad outing.
He's the one person that most Yankee fans wanted absolutely no part of in the playoffs, but yet their hopes now rely on his spotty arm.
It wasn't supposed to be like this, though. Burnett wasn't supposed to start in this five game series against the Tigers, but Friday night's rainout messed up manager Joe Girardi's rotation, forcing Burnett into action.
This isn't what Girardi or any of Yankees management wanted for this postseason. The Yankees scoured the market for a quality pitcher at the trade deadline in July to avoid this upcoming scenario, but all the quality pitchers were too overpriced for general manager Brian Cashman to pull the trigger.
Girardi gambled with starting Sabathia on short rest in Game 3 against Justin Verlander -- hoping to secure a 2-1 lead so to ease the pressure on Burnett. But after an overall stellar performance by Verlander, including the Tigers' pitcher hitting 100 mph on the radar multiple times in the eighth inning, all the pressure is now on Burnett.
I feel good about it, Girardi said about Burnett starting in Game 4. I feel good about what A.J. is going to do for us.
Unfortunately Joe, no one else does.
It's possible that Burnett can pull it together to get the road win, but this writer certainly isn't counting on it.
It's this the type of high pressure situation that gnaws at all of Burnett's flaws, all of the inadequacies that are both real and imagined in his head. Burnett has said all the right things going into the game, but if you know anything about Burnett, you know that the pressure of this game is eating at him.
I've been proving people wrong my whole career, it seems like, said Burnett. 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.
Not many others have confidence in him, but that won't stop fans and management from putting all their hopes in that capricious basket that's A.J. Burnett.
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