The Boston Red Sox have once again arrived at Yankee Stadium for a crucial four-game series between division foes, and any and all excuses have been thrust far out of the window.
It is finally time for the cream of the Yankee rotation to rise to the top and fly high like the countless home runs hit at the new ball park.
A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia were paid a king’s ransom to come to the Bronx, and they need to show they are prepared to take the throne.
Burnett has undoubtedly been the Yankees' best starter thus far in 2009, but he has failed miserably at his most important task: to win the big game.
Somehow earning the “big game” moniker without ever pitching a postseason inning, Burnett was 5-0 with a stellar 2.56 ERA in eight starts against Boston during his Blue Jay career. They hit just .212 against him in those games.
This season, however, it has been a far more painful and less encouraging tale for Burnett.
In his first two introductions to the game’s most heated rivalry, he is 0-1 with a nauseating 12.91 ERA, 2.74 WHIP, and a .382 batting average against.
The man brought in to be Boston’s kryptonite has instead been its Lois Lane—someone to use and abuse and toss to the side when the sun rises and duty calls.
The question is, when will “Clark Kent” Burnett discard the glasses, pen, notepad, and unconfident stammer—emerging from a telephone booth (locker room) with an “S” on his chest?
The same can be said for CC Sabathia, who is currently the highest paid starting pitcher in all of MLB.
Brought in to be a reliable and unquestionable “ace,” Sabathia has been pitching much more like a 10 of hearts. A steady card, sure, but not worth pushing in as many chips into the pot as New York did on his free agent contract.
Sabathia has given up four or more runs in 10 of his 23 starts, and five or more in four of his last seven. His ERA is floating around 4.00, and he has had just one month with an ERA below 3.75.
Problems have resulted from the inability to get on top of his changeup, displaying a lack of fastball command early in the count, as well as difficulty finishing his slider down and in to right-handed hitters.
We have all heard about the putrid postseason numbers for Sabathia, as he is 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA and 2.20 WHIP in five starts—two of which were against these very Red Sox in 2007 (0-2, 10.45 ERA, 2.32 WHIP).
In order for Yankee fans, players, and management personnel to truly believe in the possibility of a World Series run, Sabathia and Burnett are going to have to prove they can handle the spotlight in the biggest of games.
They will have to out-pitch star hurlers in a pennant race, and stand tall on a mound that has made so many before them appear small and unprepared.
These games will provide as close to an October atmosphere, as can be replicated in regular season baseball, and will go a long way in determining how these two infinite bank accounts will respond to a pinstriped playoff run.
It is time to unhook the leashes on New York’s two biggest dogs, and find out once and for all if their bites are truly as damaging as their barks would suggest.
Though it doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to make a clear statement that they can last 12 rounds in a ring with their most passionately despised enemy.
Armed with off-speed pitches as jabs and 95 MPH fastballs as a powerful uppercut, these two hired guns need to deliver a knockout blow.
Blue corner, are you ready? Red corner, are you ready? Ding. Ding. Ding.
Also seen at: Heartbeat of the Bronx