YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 2
Whatever Roy Halladay must have taught A.J. Burnett about pitching he must be regretting it now.
Burnett, who left the Toronto Blue Jays after last season to sign a lucrative five-year deal with the New York Yankees, pitched seven dominant innings as the Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 4-2 on Friday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
Burnett gave up only six hits, two runs and two walks in leading the Yankees to their eighth victory in nine games. Burnett also fanned seven batters. Since a horrible start against the Boston Red Sox on June 9 where he gave up five runs in 2 2/3 innings, Burnett has given up only three earned runs in his last 27 1/3 innings.
“He’s throwing a lot of fastballs in and he’s aggressive,” catcher Francisco Cervelli told MLB.com. “It’s strike one, and that’s it. It’s simple when you hit 96.”
Burnett (7-4) got support from solo home runs from Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez to win his third game in his last four decisions.
Cano blasted the first pitch from lefty Brian Tallet (5-6) in the second inning into the Yankees bullpen in rightfield to give Burnett a 1-0 lead. The home run was the 13th of the season and it broke a 12-game stretch where Cano had not driven in a run.
“[The home run] feels good, but I’ve still got to get better with men on base,” Cano said to MLB.com. “That’s something I don’t want to go through, but this is the game.”
Burnett lost the lead in the fourth inning when Lyle Overbay drove a 1-0 pitch into the gap in left-center. A wild pitch got him third. With one out Alex Rios ripped a first-pitch fastball up the middle to score Overbay.
The Yankees reached Tallet for two runs in the fifth inning without the benefit of a ball making it out of the infield. Tallet walked Brett Gardner. Worried Gardner might steal second base, Tallet also walked Derek Jeter. Johnny Damon then laid down a drag bunt that Tallet fielded but he threw weakly to first base and Damon beat it for a single.
The Yankees were primed for a big inning, however, it was not as big an inning as it could have been because Cano and Rodrigiuez failed to deliver big hits.
Tallet walked Teixeira to allow Gardner to score. Damon later scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-1. But Tallet induced Rodriguez and Cano to hit weak grounders to the infield where Jeter and Teixeira were cut down at the plate.
Replays later showed Teixeira had got his hand on the plate before Jays catcher Raul Chavez tagged him on the chest. But home plate umpire John Hirschbeck missed the call and Teixeira was called out.
“That had the makings of a four- or five-run inning,” Rodriguez said. “Give him (Tallet) credit, but we didn’t quite get the job done.”
After two outs in the sixth inning and with an 0-2 count on Vernon Wells, Burnett made his only significant mistake of the game. He left a fastball up and Wells launched it into the leftfield stands for his 10th home run of the season and the 21st of his career against the Yankees.
For the second straight game where the Yankees have held a lead entering the eighth inning, Girardi did not summon Brian Bruney. Instead he used Phil Coke to retire lefty Adam Lind on a fly ball to left. Giradi then used Phil Hughes to get the final two puts.
After Hughes gave up a opposite field single to Scott Rolen he retired Overbay and Wells on weak grounders to end the inning.
“It really doesn’t make a difference to me,” Hughes said to MLB.com. “I’m going in to get outs, whether it’s the fourth inning or the eighth inning. Basically, we’re bridging the gap between the starter and Mariano. Someone has to pitch the eighth, and any one of us can do that.”
Rodriguez provided an insurance run in the eight inning with a line drive shot to rightfield, his 14th homer of the season and his fifth in his last eight games.
“It feels pretty good,” Rodriguez said to MLB.com. “I like when I hit the ball to right-center and hit the ball in the air. The key for me is to try to stay aggressive.”
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to preserve the victory for his 21st save in 22 chances. It was No. 503 of his career. He has saved the Yankees last four victories.
The Yankees victory, coupled with the Boston Red Sox 7-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners in 11 innings Friday night, brought the Yankees to within 2 1/2 games of the Bosox in the American League East.
Now that the pupil Burnett has taken his lessons and beaten his former team, the teacher Halladay will get a chance to even the score. The Jays will send Halladay (10-2, 2.56 ERA) to the mound Saturday afternoon. He will face Chien-Ming Wang (1-6, 10.06 ERA), who won his first game of the season in his last start.
Halladay lost his last start, his first since coming off the 15-day disabled list with a mild right groin strain. Halladay is 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA in his career against the Yankees. He also beat Burnett and the Yankees 5-1 on May 12 in a complete game.
Gametime is 1:05 p.m. EDT.
NOTES . . . Jorge Posada missed a second straight start with a bruised left thumb. He is still listed as day-to-day . . . Meanwhile backup catcher Jorge Molina, rehabbing a severely strained quad muscle, is in Scranton-Wilkes Barre and he may return to the team early next week. The Yankees will either have carry three catchers or send Cervelli back to Triple A . . . The Yankees will honor Lou Gehrig in ceremonies before Saturday’s game. It is the 70th anniversary of his famous “Luckiest Man” speech.