Game 4 starter Burnett still believes

New York Yankees' pitcher A.J. Burnett during batting

New York Yankees' pitcher A.J. Burnett during batting practice before Game 3. (Oct. 3, 2011) (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

DETROIT -- One win can't undo six months of mediocrity, but in A.J. Burnett's case, all might be forgiven if he comes through just this once.

This is his chance to restore the faith Yankees fans once freely bestowed upon him. And he knows it.

"I've been proving people wrong my whole career, it seems like," said Burnett, who will start ALDS Game 4 Tuesday night against the Tigers with the Yankees on the brink of elimination. "People are entitled to their opinion. Obviously, I give them reasons here and there to doubt. The bottom line is I have confidence in myself . . . I'm not going to go out and try to prove anything. I'm going to go out and try to win a ballgame."

Despite his struggles, Burnett still believes in himself. Even in the bleakest of situations, he never allows one wayward start to derail him. In his mind, each day is a new slate.

"Believe it or not, I have pretty good confidence every start," he said. "I try to go out and believe I can throw a no-hitter. Even last year when I couldn't get out of the first inning, I took the mound the next start with belief. And I did so this year. If I don't do that, then I don't make it where I'm at now. I don't have that few good starts toward the end if I don't stay that way.''

Despite Burnett's self-assurance, this postseason start wasn't in Joe Girardi's plans until rain suspended Game 1 Friday night. But he continued to express support Monday for the pitcher who continually walked the line between respectability and futility.

"He's never backed down from a challenge," Girardi said of Burnett, who is 3-3 with a 5.67 ERA in the postseason. "This is not a guy that when he's struggling, he says, 'I don't think I can make my start today.' This is a guy that has always gone out and taken the ball and said, 'I'm going to do the best I can.' And that's what he'll do.

"I could have a very short leash because I have my bullpen. But I expect him to go out and pitch well."

Burnett knows he caught a break with Friday's weather, and he's prepared to take the opportunity "and run with it." But he didn't call Monday night's game his shot at redemption.

"I look at it as a chance to get my team a win tomorrow, a very big one," said Burnett (11-11, 5.15), who will face righthander Rick Porcello. "I had good games, bad games during the season. You can say the same thing about the postseason, but you can't count me out.

"I'm going to bring everything I've got. And just let A.J. loose out there."

But Porcello, a native of Morristown, N.J., is just as amped. "Watching Max [Scherzer, the Game 2 starter] go out there and throw the ball the way he did was big for our team. I'm ready to go," said Porcello (14-9, 4.75), whose parents were longtime Yankees fans before he signed with Detroit. "I want to get out there and show everybody what I can do."

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