Let me tell you a little about my day, and in what direction I thought it was going in.
This afternoon I was in my car, driving of course. I was stopped at a traffic light, minding my own business. Then…BOOM! I got rear-ended by some lady who was not paying attention to the road. Thankfully my bumper was only scratched: not really any major damage to my (new) car. Oh, and if you’re wondering, no. I wasn’t hurt; just a little rattled at the time, although I did have a mild headache when I got home from work.
People, driving requires 100% of your attention. Remember that.
I only thought my headache was going to get more severe, considering A.J. Burnett was starting for the Yankees in Game Four of the American League Division Series, down two games to one, at the mercy of the Detroit Tigers. I’ll be the first to admit, I felt very uneasy with Burnett on the mound, an 11-11 record this season with a 5.15 ERA.
His numbers alone are enough to give anyone a headache, even without getting rear-ended by a car.
Some Yankee fans, most notably Yankee roll caller and lead Bleacher Creature Bald Vinny, started a Facebook campaign: “I Believe in A.J.” Despite the doubt a lot of people had concerning Burnett’s ability to pitch in an elimination game, it is evident the fans got behind him.
All the faith was rewarded.
Aside from one inning, he didn’t disappoint. Burnett helped lead the way to a 10-1 Yankee win in Game Four, forcing a Game Five on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
The key play in the game came in the bottom of the first inning. The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs, and Don Kelly smacked a liner into centerfield. Curtis Granderson dove, laid out and made a game-saving grab to end the inning.
Burnett owes his centerfielder dinner after a catch like that.
Had the ball gone over Granderson’s head, anything could – and would – have happened. Kelly would have definitely cleared the bases and he would have undoubtedly made it to third – or even home. In perspective, it could have been an inside-the-park grand slam, and Burnett’s confidence may have disappeared, allowing Detroit to run up the score.
But it didn’t happen.
Burnett had walked three batters in the first (Miguel Cabrera was walked intentionally) and looked a bit jittery, but seemed to settle down nicely after the shaky frame. He ended the night with 5 2/3 innings pitched, and he gave up just one earned run on four hits. Burnett walked four batters and struck out three.
The only blip on Burnett’s radar was a home run to Victor Martinez in the bottom of the fourth, and yet it didn’t really matter because the Yankees had already put two runs on the board.
When Burnett left the mound, he got a lot of love from his teammates. I’d say if you took one still frame from the game tonight, the picture of the infield players collectively patting Burnett on the back speaks volumes about the amount faith they had in him.
After Burnett left, yesterday’s goat Rafael Soriano came in – and Granderson once again flashed the leather, making another beautiful catch in centerfield to end the inning. Not only did Granderson save Burnett, but he aided Soriano with a spectacular web gem.
The pitching and defense was there, but you need offense to win a game. And the Bomber bats came alive in this one.
The Yankees were retired 1-2-3 in the first and second innings – and it looked as though it was going to be another stagnant and dead night at the plate. But right before Derek Jeter stepped into the batter’s box, I put on my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles slippers.
Right after I put them on the Captain crushed a two-run double to plate Jorge Posada and Russell Martin. The Yankees took the lead and never relinquished it.
“I think my slippers may have been the Yanks’ good luck charm,” I thought to myself. “I’ll keep them on.”
If they were a good luck charm, they were working in the top half of the fifth. The Yanks added two more runs on a double by Granderson which knocked in Brett Gardner. Alex Rodriguez later hit a sac fly to drive in Jeter.
Hanging onto a 4-1 lead, the Bronx Broskis exploded for six runs in the eighth – and batted around. A balk by Al Albuquerque sent Rodriguez to the plate, a single by pinch-hitter Jesus Montero drove in Mark Teixeira, and then Gardner plated Chris Dickerson (who pinch-ran for Nick Swisher).
And they still weren’t done.
A Daniel Schlereth wild pitch allowed Montero to score, then Robinson Cano knocked Martin and Gardner in with an two-run single.
10 runs in the game. And now we’re heading back to the Bronx, the ALDS tied 2-2.
The last time the Yankees played a Game Five in the ALDS was 2005, and it didn’t go well for them. The Bombers played in Anaheim and were outdone 5-3 at the hands of the Angels.
This time around, however, the Yankees will not be on the road. They will be in the comfort of Yankee Stadium and essentially they have home field advantage and momentum again.
In more good news for the Yanks, the last time they played a Game Five in the ALDS at home, they beat Oakland all the way back in 2001. Strangely enough they won the ’01 ALDS Game Five by the same score they lost the ’05 ALDS by: 5-3.
The Yankees broke the trend tonight. They seemed to be following the 2006 ALDS script a little too closely, but now they have the chance to make a little comeback and beat the Tigers; an opportunity to punch the proverbial ticket back to the American League Championship Series.
Ivan Nova, who dazzled in Game One, will take the mound in the deciding game, hoping to keep the postseason dream alive. He will be opposed by Doug Fister, who the Yankees got to on Saturday.
If the Yanks win Thursday, the Texas Rangers await them in the ALCS – a potential rematch of last year’s Championship Series.
Speaking of breaking playoff trends, the Yankees lost to the Rangers last year.
They will have to break that trend, too. But they have to get there, first. I’ll be working a high school football game Thursday night at 6:00, so I’ll probably only miss the first and maybe the second innings of the game.
When I get home, one thing is for sure: I am putting on my ninja turtles slippers.