A.J., Grandy get Yankees to Game 5
DETROIT - Sure, you saw this coming.
Their season on the line, the Yankees turned to a pitcher Tuesday night that Mother Nature alone necessitated they throw in Game 4 of the ALDS.
And A.J. Burnett came up aces.
In a performance reminiscent of his Game 2 gem in the 2009 World Series, Burnett allowed one run in 52/3 innings to lead the Yankees to a 10-1 win over the Tigers in front of a deflated crowd of 43,527 that hoped to celebrate the hometown team advancing to the ALCS.
"I was proud of what he did," Joe Girardi said. "In a must-win situation for us, he pitched one of his best games of the year."
"The Stadium's going to be rocking, no question about it," said Alex Rodriguez, who had two hits after entering the game 0-for-10 in the series. "The one thing we wanted to do was get it back to our home cooking, and it's going to be exciting playing there."
"I like my team," general manager Brian Cashman said before the game. "I think we're going to finish the job."
But a general feeling of dread -- among Yankees fans and quite a few members of the organization, too -- surrounded Game 4 as Burnett, originally left out of the ALDS rotation, was called on to extend the season. He more than produced, allowing one run, four hits and four walks.
"It's big," Burnett said of coming through in the face of so much doubt. "But like I said, we don't win tonight without defense."
Especially from centerfielder Curtis Granderson, who made two terrific catches, and the one that ended the sixth inning being off the charts.
Girardi came to get Burnett after Don Kelly's two-out single in the sixth. Rafael Soriano, who allowed Delmon Young's go-ahead homer in Game 3, replaced Burnett. Jhonny Peralta, who doubled earlier off Burnett, sent a sinking liner toward the gap in left-center. Sprinting all out to his right, Granderson fully extended himself horizontally to make a diving catch.
He also saved at least three runs in the first on Kelly's bases-loaded liner, a ball Granderson initially misread.
"He may have saved the season," A-Rod said of Granderson's catches. "Not once, but twice."
Burnett left with a 4-1 lead, and after handing the ball to Girardi, patted his manager, supportive all season, on the rear end with his glove.
"That's probably the first time I've smacked a manager on the butt," Burnett said. "I didn't know I did it. It was probably a little 'thank you' for all the stuff he's done for me."
Alex Rodriguez, 0-for-10 in the series coming in, had two hits, as did Russell Martin and Gardner. Derek Jeter drove in two in the third off Rick Porcello (four runs and five hits in six innings) to give Burnett an early lead, something most considered crucial to him having any chance of success.
"He seemed very relaxed, very confident and he pitched huge when we needed him most," Jeter said. "This obviously goes without saying how big this game was. A.J. deserves all the credit. He shut down a tough team over there. He's the reason we get an opportunity to play on Thursday."
Shaky doesn't even begin to cover Burnett's first inning, in which he threw 21 pitches, only seven for strikes, though ultimately one in which he emerged unscored upon.
Burnett fell behind leadoff man Austin Jackson 2-and-0, then walked him on six pitches. Ramon Santiago popped a bunt attempt almost straight in the air, and Rodriguez gloved it for the first out. Jackson stole second and Young grounded out, moving Jackson to third. Girardi intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera. Burnett then unintentionally walked Victor Martinez to load the bases.
Kelly took a ball, then swung at Burnett's next pitch, a 95-mph fastball, and lined it to center. Granderson's first step was in before he altered course and leaped to barely snag the ball before it sailed over his head and, likely, all the way to the centerfield wall, 420 feet from home plate. The catch saved three runs and, with Granderson falling on his front side, maybe four.
"I was like, oh man," Granderson said of the first catch. "I was able to go ahead and not be committed one way or the other. I ended up having to leave my feet, which I didn't want to. I ended up reeling it in finally at the end."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland tabbed that as the turning point.
"I think the key out in the game happened in the very first inning when Donnie Kelly smoked that ball and Grandy made a good play," Leyland said. "It looked like it might get over his head. If it would have gotten over his head and he had fallen down, it might have been an inside-the-park home run. That was a huge out right off the bat. And, of course, he made another very nice catch."
After Porcello needed only six pitches to set down the Yankees, Burnett retired the Tigers 1-2-3 in the second on 10 pitches. In the third, the Yankees gave Burnett a lead, something most thought would be a must for him to have any chance of success.
Jorge Posada, with a .667 on-base percentage this series coming in, was hit with a pitch to lead off the inning, and Martin followed with a single up the middle. Gardner was called out on strikes for the first out but Jeter, 0-for-10 in his career against Porcello, smacked the righthander's 1-and-0 delivery over Jackson's head in center for a two-run double, making it 2-0.
The Tigers cut their deficit in half when Martinez got their first hit in the fourth, leading off the inning by driving a 3-and-1, 94-mph fastball into the seats in rightfield. After Kelly grounded out, Peralta doubled down the leftfield line, but Burnett stranded him by striking out Alex Avila and Wilson Betemit.
The Yankees pushed the lead to 4-1 in the fifth, when Martin led off with a single. Gardner, whose two-run double in the seventh Monday off Justin Verlander tied Game 3, sliced a single to left. Jeter bunted but put too much on it, allowing Porcello to throw Martin out at third.
Granderson lined an 0-and-2 pitch into the corner in right to bring in Gardner and move Jeter to third. Rodriguez delivered his third RBI of the series with a sacrifice fly to center.
Jackson started the fifth with a single, but Ramon Santiago grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and Young grounded out to Burnett to end the inning.
"This is a good situation for A.J., I think on this stage tonight," Leyland said before the game.
Girardi was even more direct in his pregame prediction: "I think A.J.'s going to throw the ball well."
Now on to Game 5.