One Poor “A.J. Inning” Costs the Ballgame
|Rodriguez, Al, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.295|
|Burnett, AJ(L, 8-7)||7.0||4||4||4||4||6||1||4.12|
Game Review from MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
CLEVELAND — The Yankees needed A.J. Burnett to get through seven innings on this day more than most, but that was where a pair of former teammates came back to hurt the right-hander on Monday.
Austin Kearns’ three-run homer followed Shelley Duncan’s RBI single as Burnett coughed up a two-run advantage, taking the loss as the Indians posted a 6-3 victory on Independence Day at Progressive Field.
Those pitches might not have spoiled what was largely a quality outing, Burnett said, if he hadn’t issued a pair of walks to Grady Sizemore and Lonnie Chisenhall earlier in the inning.
“The two walks are probably what got me,” Burnett said. “Walks will kill you, bottom line.”
Perhaps, but you could also make the case that Burnett should have already been out of the inning. Chisenhall found a second life when a foul popup dropped between Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner down the left-field line, prolonging the at-bat.
“Bottom line, that ball — for me — has to be caught,” Rodriguez said. “A.J. pitched his tail off today, and it’s unfortunate that ball drops right there.”
Curtis Granderson briefly trimmed the deficit in the eighth with his 23rd home run, a solo shot off Vinnie Pestano, but Carlos Santana answered in the eighth with a two-run blast off Cory Wade — the first runs allowed by Wade in eight Yankees appearances.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi acknowledged that he was trying to quietly push Burnett through at least seven innings because his bullpen was down closer Mariano Rivera, who is nursing a sore right triceps.
“It’s improving. Hopefully [Tuesday] I’ll be ready to pitch,” Rivera said. “I’m not concerned about it, I can tell you that. It’s things that happen.”
At least for a while, it appeared that Girardi might not have any trouble without his future Hall of Famer.
Although Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin was no-hitting the Bombers through six, Burnett had matched him with a zero in every frame, permitting only two hits as he went to the seventh.
“I didn’t think fatigue was an issue, and he was still throwing the ball good for me,” Girardi said.
Mark Teixeira broke up Tomlin’s no-hit bid with a single to open the seventh, and Nick Swisher’s two-run double served as the big blow in the inning, giving Burnett a cushion he’d enjoy only briefly.
“We really just couldn’t get anything going today,” Swisher said. “Coming up there you’re like, ‘Man, this is a chance to do something right now.’ I was lucky to get a ball up in the zone.”
Burnett’s two full-count walks, both on high fastballs, put a damper on the rally. A wild pitch preceded Duncan’s opposite-field, two-strike single.
That brought up Kearns, who hit two homers in 102 at-bats for New York last year as a late-season pickup, and he cleared the right-field wall for a crushing blast that marked his first round-tripper of 2011.
“I focus on the walks,” Burnett said. “I’m trying not to be negative; I threw the ball well. At times, you tip your hat to teams for battling.”
It was Burnett’s second loss of the year to the Tribe, having allowed a run over 7 2/3 innings in a losing effort on June 13 at home — coincidentally, the last game Jeter played in before Monday.
Making his return to the lineup from a right calf injury, Derek Jeter went hitless in four at-bats, but that hardly set him apart from his teammates through the first six frames against Tomlin.
“He’s all about location, with a number of different pitches, and he’s really good at it,” Girardi said. “You don’t throw 29 straight starts and go five innings, at least, if you don’t know how to pitch.”
Jeter entered the game six hits shy of 3,000 for his career, looking to become the 28th member — and first wearing a Yankees uniform — of that exclusive club.
Showing no signs of lingering injury after a two-game Minor League rehabilitation stint, the captain reached on a first-inning error, flew out in the third inning, grounded out in the sixth inning, and lined out in the eighth.
“Evidently, he’s been doing that all year,” Jeter said about Tomlin. “He knows how to pitch. I don’t think he threw me a ball over the middle of the plate the entire day. He’s going to make you hit his pitch, and he kept the ball down, for the most part.”