Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Off On The Right Foot

Back on April 14th, in his second start in a Yankee uniform, A.J. Burnett carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning at Tropicana Field. It happened the night after Chien Ming Wang was rocked for 8 runs in one inning and Nick Swisher found his signature moment as a Yankee. The pressure was certainly on Burnett to save the bullpen and he went 8 innings to pick up the win.

Even though no such debacle preceded this game, Alfredo Aceves, Brian Bruney, Phil Coke and Phil Hughes (the Yanks top four relievers behind Mariano Rivera) were all unavailable. Burnett again stepped up to the plate, holding the Rays to two runs over seven innings, which gave Jonathan Albaladejo and David Robertson some extra slack to work with when they were finally called upon.

Of course, the offense played an even larger role in creating that cushion for the bullpen to work with. They got to work in the second inning, when Hideki Matsui singled, Jorge Posada doubled and Robinson Cano tripled in succession. After Nick Swisher got Cano in on a groundball it was 3-0.

Sheilds settled down through the next three innings, working out of minor trouble in the 4th and 5th but hit the wall in the 6th. He gave up back to back homers to Cano and Swisher, and was pulled two batters later when Derek Jeter singled to left.

The Rays finally got on the board in the home half of the inning. B.J. Upton struck out but reached on a passed ball, advanced to third on a single by Carl Crawford and scored when Evan Longoria bounced into a double play. It was the only run they would score off Burnett and it was unearned.

Burnett threw 114 pitches but looked like he was still in control for his final 10 as he sat the Rays down in order in the 7th. Uncharacteristically, he induced 11 groundouts as opposed to 6 in the air and 5 on strikes. His GB/FB ratio is 0.74 this year but was nearly 2.0 in this outing.

Alex Rodriguez, the birthday boy, narrowly missed a homer in the 8th inning but drove in two runs with a double anyway. The Rays got to Albaledjo in the 8th for two runs but the Yanks put the game out of reach in the 9th on a solo homer by Nick Swisher and a three run shot by Johnny Damon.

Robby Cano ended up with a feat, which for him, was actually rarer than a cycle. He walked twice, homered and tripled. With 19 BB as opposed to 80 singles 26 doubles coming into tonight, he would have been a better bet to come with with one of each of the latter than two free passes. His home run was his 14th of the year (which is approximately 12 more than the Mets have as a team).

It was a good of a start to the road trip as the Yanks could have asked for. They're now 23-6 (.793) in their last 29 games, which includes the sweep at the hands of the Angels.

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