Home plate umpire Tim McClelland ejects New York Yankees manager...

Home plate umpire Tim McClelland ejects New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi in the fourth inning. (May 9, 2010) Credit: AP

BOSTON - It was, of course, inevitable that a Yankees starter other than Javier Vazquez would stink it up in an outing this year.

A.J. Burnett broke up what had been a streak of impressive outings last night, and that it came at Fenway Park was utterly predictable.

Burnett, 0-2 with a 14.21 ERA in three starts at Fenway last season and only average in one previous 2010 start here in April, was pounded as the Red Sox avoided getting swept, 9-3.

Burnett, who came in 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA, allowed nine hits and nine runs, eight earned, in 41/3 innings. His ERA jumped to 3.40. The Yankees'' top four starters had entered the game with a combined 16-1 record.

Burnett's previous worst 2010 start also occurred at Fenway, where he allowed seven hits and three earned runs in five innings April 6.

"I don't want to take anything away from these guys [the Red Sox], but I think I would have gotten pounded no matter who I faced tonight," Burnett said of his recent trouble at Fenway.

This was a game in which the recently hot Yankees bats were cooled and one that manager Joe Girardi didn't see much of. He was ejected, for the first time this season, after the top of the fourth inning after he got between Marcus Thames and plate umpire Tim McClelland in a third-strike dispute.

"I'm protecting my player, and that's really all I want to say about that," said Girardi, who added "you could write that" when asked if McClelland had "just cause" to toss him.

Alex Rodriguez hit his 586th career homer, and first since April 20, to tie Frank Robinson for seventh on the all-time list.

The Yankees (21-9), who had won the first two games of the series by a combined 24-6 but had their winning streak snapped at six games, were held to two runs and four hits over seven innings by Jon Lester (3-2, 3.71). But the night was mostly about Burnett, who before last year was 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA at Fenway.

Why has he struggled so much here as a Yankee? "I wish I knew, I really do," Burnett said. "I'm not pitching bad because I'm over-amped or anything like that for these series. I just have not made pitches."

J.D. Drew led off the second with a single and scored when Marcus Thames, who had a tough game in left throughout the windy night, faded back on Jeremy Hermida's two-out liner and saw the ball bang off his glove for an error. It was an unearned run, but the Red Sox would add plenty of earned ones soon enough, five of them in a nightmarish third.

Burnett said more perplexing to him than his recent problems at Fenway was suddenly falling out of the rhythm he'd been in. "How can you be in a groove and then come out of the groove like I did tonight?" he said. "They came out tonight with more aggression, I think, than the last two days and they took advantage of every mistake I made."

The Yankees got two back in the fourth as Nick Swisher and Rodriguez homered. It was Swisher's seventh homer and Rodriguez's third.

The Red Sox made it 7-2 in the fourth on Kevin Youkilis' RBI double and 9-2 in the fifth on Hermida's two-run homer. It was the 97th and final pitch of the night for Burnett, who doesn't see this game as mentally serving as a setback. "It's not going to stop me," he said. "I'm feeling good where I'm at right now. It's a bump in the road. The good ones overcome that."

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