After six starts last season A.J. Burnett was 2-0 but with a 5.26 ERA.
After six starts this season, including tonight's 4-1 victory over the Orioles, Burnett is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA. He has not allowed an earned run in 19 innings.
“Confidence I would say,” Burnett said comparing this year to last. “Confidence in myself and not just the curveball because that’s been out of the equation [until tonight]. Confidence in feeding off these guys throwing before me and throwing after me. It’s just fun to be a part of.”
The fun being the "pass the torch" mantra the starters have embraced, with the exception of Javier Vazquez of course, as each night's starter seems to duplicate or surpass what came before.
"It just seems like the guy pitching tomorrow is trying to outdo the guy pitching today," Joe Girardi said. "They've competed at a very high level. They've got us into the eighth inning a lot of times, the seventh inning most of the time. They've pitched about as well as you can pitch. It's been great to see because at times we haven't scored a lot of runs."
Said Burnett: “We’re just trying to pass the torch. I think Phil [Hughes] said it perfectly the other day, you’re just trying to pass the baton to the next guy.”
*** Joba Chamberlain has been happy to help give Mariano Rivera the last couple nights off, and to absorb some knowledge from the closer.
“It means a lot to us, even when he’s not pitching for us young guys to be able to pick his brain,” Chamberlain said. “It’s one thing to be able to watch it, it’s another thing for him to actually be able to explain it to us. It was good for me the last couple days to give him a little break and get him back to where he needs to be.”
*** Girardi's voice cracked a bit in the postgame press conference when talking about Ernie Harwell, who died Tuesday at the age of 92.
"I was fortunate enough to go to the ballpark and, I believe it was when I was with Florida, and he read his poem about what baseball means," Girardi said. "Special. He was a wonderful man, always great to me. He'll be dearly missed. It's just not a sad day in Detroit, it's a sad day in baseball."