A.J. Burnett had five days to sit on the debacle that was the last inning of his previous start.
Five runs, four on a pair of two-run homers, as a four-run sixth-inning lead disappeared in a 6-5 loss to the Rays Monday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.
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And now, three batters into Saturday night's start, the Mets had the bases loaded. But an inning that most agree would have gotten away from the righthander in 2010 didn't this time. Burnett limited the Mets to two runs and settled down, helping the Yankees to a 7-3 victory.
"I think it was real important, especially after his previous inning before that," manager Joe Girardi said. "That was probably the difference in the game."
Burnett (5-3, 4.02 ERA) allowed three runs, six hits and three walks in 61/3 innings and held the Mets in check after allowing two runs in the 30-pitch first inning.
"I wasn't going to let anything bother me to take my mind in the wrong direction in that first inning," Burnett said.
He acknowledged that coming off the way his last start finished, it wasn't easy.
"It's way easier said than done,'' Burnett said. "My last game, I let some pitches that came back over the plate really bug me and it hurt me. I wasn't going to let that happen."
Burnett said pitching coach Larry Rothschild has talked to him since spring training about "putting the blinders on" regarding each pitch, whether it be a good one or bad one. Part of what led to Burnett's 10-15, 5.26 season in 2010 was an inability to, as he put it, "turn the page.''
"It's hard,'' Burnett said. "You don't make pitches, you get upset. But you have to be able to accept it and let it go and make a pitch. When I'm good at that, I'm going to be all right. That's the key. Good pitch, bad pitch, if I strike a guy out or he hits a homer, I still have to make a pitch. I still have a guy coming to the plate where I have to get him out.''
Russell Martin, whose eighth homer of the season, a two-run shot in the second, ensured that Burnett wouldn't pitch with a deficit for long, can be as stubborn as Burnett. That's part of the reason Burnett said the two have jelled. Burnett may shake the catcher off, but Martin will keep calling the same pitch, showing him the confidence he has in his stuff.
"He's his own worst enemy when he's on the mound,'' Martin said, echoing what Burnett has said often about himself. "He's got the stuff to get anybody out. When he gets ahead of hitters and his curveball's working the way it was for him today, there's no way he should give up more than three runs.''
Burnett felt he had better overall stuff in the outing against the Rays but didn't do Monday what he did Saturday night.
"I didn't let the first inning bother me,'' Burnett said. "I got out of the jam, let our offense do the work, calmed down and got through it.''
The Yankees moved back into first place at 24-20, percentage points ahead of the Rays (25-21).