What Has Happened to A.J. Burnett?

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What Has Happened to A.J. Burnett?
(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

After Tuesday night’s game he said he felt decent but wasn’t sharp.

 

Although the Yankees’ offense bailed A.J. Burnett out with five home runs and a 9-6 win over the Orioles, he was lit up for six earned runs on 11 hits while giving up two home runs on the night. He walked two and struck out two.

 

“I didn’t have anything,” Burnett said to the YES Network and the media after the game.

 

“I missed a lot of spots and didn’t throw the ball where I wanted to throw it. I never found it tonight. They got a lot of 0-2 hits and I wasn’t able to bury them.”

 

It may have been merely one bad game, but inconsistency has been a huge part of the second half of Burnett’s season. In the month of July the tall, lanky, right-hander seemed unstoppable with a record of 4-0.

 

With his undefeated record and ability to pitch deep into ballgames, the Yankees won all five games he started in July. But since July 27 at Tampa Bay, Burnett has not claimed a victory, going 0-4 with a 3.92 ERA.

 

“It’s frustrating,” he said.

 

“Who’s going to be happy with not winning a game in a month?”

 

Yankee skipper Joe Girardi noted that Burnett looked extremely flat tonight, and was not working “down hill” from the start of the game.

 

“Players get on rolls and he’s not on a roll,” Girardi said.

 

“He is human. Just look at his career—I’m not concerned with him. We’ll just go back to work with him.”

 

Perhaps his inability to notch a win comes from who is catching him. In games Jorge Posada catches Burnett the battery has gone 5-5 with Burnett’s ERA at a bloated 4.96. When other catchers are behind the dish when Burnett starts, he is 5-3 with an ERA of 3.38.

 

With Posada hitting .278 with 19 home runs and 63 RBIs (and backup Jose Molina hitting .232 with a homer and nine RBIs) it’s been difficult to keep Posada out of the lineup. Girardi wants Posada’s bat over Molina’s, and for good reason.  

 

Posada, trying to take the positives out of the win tonight, noted after the game that Burnett “battled and looked better,” but obviously his numbers and feelings did not indicate a good start.

 

Maybe his recent inconsistency is stemming from his arm angle. Against Bsltimore it looked like Burnett’s front shoulder was flying out too quickly, causing him to throw the ball in locations unwanted. Posada would set up the pitch outside and the ball would tail down and in.

 

Whatever the case, Burnett must work on his stuff and find it before the end of the month and the post-season. If the Yankees plan on winning, they will need a good Burnett. He is a critical piece of the Yankees’ rotation, and they will need the kind of game he gave them on Aug. 7 against the Red Sox.

 

On that hot Friday night in the Bronx against the BoSox, Burnett went 7 2/3 innings allowing no runs on just one hit with six strikeouts. Alex Rodriguez eventually delivered the game-winner with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 15th inning.

 

He had two acceptable starts against Toronto and Oakland that followed the Aug. 7 start before getting roughed up for nine earned runs in five innings by Boston on Aug. 22.

 

Right now Burnett has a record of 10-8 with an ERA of 4.29.

 

“Individual numbers don’t matter to me,” he said.

 

“I just want the team to win.”

 

Burnett will get an opportunity to turn it around when he takes the ball again on Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays at home. He will pitch one game of the Yankees' day-night double header.

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