Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Yanks' bats making Burnett debate a moot point

By Chris Ruddick

This is exactly the predicament New York Yankees fans feared when they heard that A.J. Burnett would be starting a game in the American League Championship Series.

When Burnett takes the hill on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers, it will essentially be a must-win game for the defending world champions, who now find themselves in a 2-1 hole following Cliff Lee's masterpiece on Monday.

Of course there are people out there who want Joe Girardi to go back to CC Sabathia on short rest tonight, but let's be honest, the Yankees could have Whitey Ford on the hill Tuesday and it is not going to matter because they haven't hit a lick through the first three games.

Plus, Tommy Hunter is going for the Rangers on Tuesday. The Yanks don't need a shut down game from Sabathia, who by the way hasn't been that great this postseason anyway. They just need a solid outing from Burnett because let's face it, if this Yankees lineup can't get to Tommy Hunter, they probably
shouldn't be playing anyway.

As good as Cliff Lee was on Monday - and he was good - he was facing a Yankees team that mustered a mere five runs off of C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis over the weekend.

Aside from Robinson Cano the Yanks just aren't hitting. Mark Teixeira is 0-for-11 in this series, Alex Rodriguez has two hits and Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher have combined to strike out nine times.

Take away Cano's five hits and this Yankee lineup is batting a whopping .143 (14-for-98) this series with 30 strikeouts. Not exactly Murderers' Row.

Burnett, though, can't put them in an early hole on Tuesday. Andy Pettitte pitched great on Monday, but you got the feeling around the second inning that the two-run home run by Josh Hamilton in the first was probably going to be all the Rangers were going to need.

Lee was phenomenal, as his eight scoreless innings made him the third pitcher in MLB history to win his first seven playoff decisions and is the first pitcher with three games of 10-plus punchouts in one postseason.

Now the Yanks turn to Burnett to be their stopper. Not exactly an encouraging thought when you consider he was a miserable 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA in his final 12 starts.

Oh and by the way he hasn't pitched since October 2.

After the Yankees were dominated by Lee in Game 1 of last year's World Series, it was Burnett who turned in a gem with seven innings of one-run ball and helped them even that series.

If history does not repeat itself on Tuesday, there is a good chance this series does not find its way back to Arlington.


The Yankees aren't the only ones who could have a pitching conundrum on their hands. Should the Philadelphia Phillies lose on Tuesday and go down 2-1 in their National League Championship Series with the Giants, would they consider bringing Roy Halladay back on short rest for Game 4?

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has already named Joe Blanton as his starter for Wednesday's contest at AT&T Park, but on Monday when asked if Tuesday's outcome could change things, he seemed as if it was not the forgone conclusion that it may have been a week ago.

"We'll play the game tomorrow and we'll see,"Manuel said before the Phillies’ workout on Monday. "Does it impact it? I don't know. We'll just wait and see what happens."

Although Halladay hasn't had to go on three-days' rest this season, he has pitched on short rest on six other occasions and is 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in those contests.

However, if Halladay goes on three-days rest that would likely mean that both Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels would be moved up as well.

Oswalt is 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA in five starts on three-days' rest, but has done it only twice in the last six seasons.  And Hamels has never done it.

"When you get to the postseason, that’s something that always comes up," said Hamels. "I've been here enough to where I'm confident enough to do it. I've never had the opportunity, but you have to make those opportunities. I'm definitely ready. I feel strong. I feel very confident I could do it if asked upon. But at the same time, we do have four really good pitchers."

Blanton, by the way, was 6-0 with a 3.24 ERA in his final 13 starts.

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