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Joe Girardi May Have Cost Yankees World Series by Starting A.J. Burnett

Jordan Schwartz@jordanharrisonSenior Writer INovember 3, 2009

There was no reason to start A.J. Burnett on three days' rest in Game Five of the World Series against the Phillies.

I'm not second guessing. As I wrote after New York won Game Four to go up 3-1, sending the right-hander to the mound was an unnecessary risk.

Sure, Burnett entered with a 4-0 record and a 2.33 ERA in his career on short rest, but he hadn't been tested like that all season.

It would've been a necessary gamble if the Series was tied at two, but with three chances to close out the Fall Classic and the red-hot Cliff Lee going for Philadelphia, manager Joe Girardi should've started Chad Gaudin.

Turning to Gaudin, who hasn't started since Sept. 28, would've given the Bombers a slim chance of beating Lee, who struck out 10 batters while giving up only one unearned run in a nine-inning effort in Game One.

But how much better were their chances with Burnett on the mound on short rest?

The Yankees didn't have to win Game Five; they had to win one of three and the best way to do that would've been to start Burnett on full rest in Game Six at home. A.J. was 5-3 with a 3.51 ERA at home during the regular season, as opposed to 8-6 with a 4.59 on the road.

And that's not the only reason. Now Andy Pettitte has to start on three days' rest on Wednesday and he does not have good career numbers in those situations (4-6, 4.15).

In addition, if the Yankees had pitched Burnett in Game Six and he lost, they'd still have Pettitte available to relieve CC Sabathia in a possible Game Seven. This is important considering the big lefty might not have his best stuff starting for the second consecutive time on short rest.

For all of these reasons, Girardi made the wrong call starting Burnett in Game Five.

Let's take a look at the grades from New York's 8-6 loss on Monday night.

Joe Girardi, Manager: (F)

Derek Jeter, SS: (D)

The captain was uncharacteristically unclutch when he stepped to the plate with runners at the corners and no one out in the ninth. He grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, and while the Yankees still brought the tying run to the plate in Mark Teixeira, Jeter's double-dip prevented Alex Rodriguez from batting with the game on the line.

Johnny Damon, LF: (A+)

Damon has overtaken Jeter for the lead in the Most Valuable Player award race if New York is able to win its 27th World Series title. The left-handed batter had three singles—including another one after a long at-bat in the ninth to keep the rally alive—walked, scored twice, and drove in a run the only time he made an out. Damon is now hitting .381 in the Fall Classic.

Mark Teixeira, 1B: (C-)

Teixeira's invisibility in the first two rounds of the playoffs went relatively unnoticed because of the Yankees' success. Now his postseason slump may finally be hurting the team. The first baseman doubled in five at-bats and scored a run to raise his World Series average to .105, but he swung at two bad pitches to strike out and end the game.

Alex Rodriguez, 3B: (A+)

After a slow start to the Series, A-Rod has heated up over the past two games, doubling twice and driving in three runs on Monday. He also made a heads-up play on the base paths to score on Robinson Cano's sac-fly to relatively shallow center in the eighth.

Nick Swisher, RF: (D+)

Incredibly, the Phillies kept giving Rodriguez pitches to hit even though Swisher was batting behind him. The right fielder was 0-for-3 with a walk.

Robinson Cano, 2B: (B+)

Cano was 1-for-3 with that sac-fly in the eighth.

Brett Gardner, CF: (D+)

Brett Gardner got the start in Game Five due to Melky Cabrera's hamstring injury. Gardner was a failure at the plate, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout. But he made an outstanding catch crashing into the wall in left center. With his speed, I still don't understand why he doesn't just lay down a bunt every time up.

Jose Molina, C: (C-)

Molina was retired in his only at-bat before being pinch-hit for by Jorge Posada in the fifth. I blame the pitcher's bad outing more on Burnett and Girardi, but Molina made a poor throw to second on Chase Utley's stolen base.

Jorge Posada, PH-C: (B+)

Posada doubled and scored in three at-bats after replacing Molina.

Eric Hinske, PH: (INC)

Hinske walked and scored for David Robertson in the fifth.

Jerry Hairston Jr., PH: (INC)

Hairston flied to center for Alfredo Aceves in the seventh.

Hideki Matsui, PH: (B)

Godzilla singled to left for Phil Hughes to keep the rally going in the ninth. I don't fault Girardi for not pinch-running for him to stay out of the double play that Jeter hit into. At that point, they only had Pena on the bench and there was no reason to replace a guy who wasn't the tying or go-ahead run. Jeter's DP was tailor-made anyway.

A.J. Burnett, SP: (F)

It was obvious right from the beginning that the right-hander didn't have it. He surrendered six runs on four hits and four walks, while striking out two in just two-plus innings. Hopefully, he'll be available for at least an inning of relief in a possible Game Seven.

David Robertson, RP: (A)

Robertson allowed one of Burnett's runs to score, but he pitched very well, giving up only one hit and striking out two in a pair of innings. He may have jumped right up the reliever pecking order for the rest of the Series.

Alfredo Aceves, RP: (A)

Aceves also looked good, yielding just one hit and striking out one in two scoreless innings of work.

Phil Coke, RP: (F)

Coke, on the other hand, surrendered solo shots to Utley (his record-tying fifth in the Series) and Raul Ibanez in the seventh.

Phil Hughes, RP: (A)

The righty gave up one hit and struck out one in 1.3 innings to lower his Fall Classic ERA to 16.20.

Yankees Overall Grade: (C-)

The offense scored enough runs to win and the bullpen pitched well (other than Coke), but Burnett's start gave the Yankees very little chance to win. Worse yet, it may hurt their chances to win Games Six and Seven.

Follow me on Twitter at JordanHarrison .

Jordan Schwartz is Bleacher Report's New York Yankees Community Leader. His book  Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.

Jordan can be reached at jordanschwartz2003@yahoo.com .

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