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Tuesday November 3, 2009 2:29 pm

A.J. Burnett Blows Big Ballgame

A.J. BurnettHalf the nation sat and held their breath last night as the other half erupted in cheers. The Philadelphia Phillies staved off elimination in the World Series, taking Game 5 from the New York Yankees with a 8-6 victory behind the first less-than-stellar performance by ace Cliff Lee. Aiding in the win was the long-overdue, yet widely expected blowup from Yankees righty A.J. Burnett, who couldn’t got the pull before managing to record a single out in the third inning. The six runs charged to him really set the tone for the game, as the Yankees rallied strongly, but not strongly enough as the series returns to New Yankee Stadium.

A.J. Burnett has a history of inconsistency. He’s capable of taking the mound one inning and leaving it three batters later, and he’s also capable of blowing up with the best of them. Jays fans north of the border in Toronto know this better than most, having experience the services of Burnett for three years prior to his signing with the Yankees this past offseason. Burnett spent almost two and a half of those years on the disabled list or putting up mediocre numbers. With an opt-out clause after 2008, Burnett turned up the heat and the velocity, having one of the best seasons of his career and landing an $82.5 million with the Yankees.

Burnett debuted in a Yankee uniform on April 9 against Baltimore, throwing 98 pitches in 5.1 innings, then five days later went to Tampa where he threw 103 pitches over eight innings. Five more days passed and he went 6.1 innings against Cleveland with 111 pitches. Over the course of the season, Burnett gave up five earned runs or more; 10 times he gave up zero or one. He went 4-0 in July in five starts, allowing nine runs, only striking out 21; then 0-4 in August in six starts, giving up 25 with 40 strikeouts. Among all of his major statistics, it’s hard to find one consistent column from one game to the next.

The Yankees are getting what they’re paying for. They gave CC Sabathia almost twice as much money as Burnett, and he’s putting up numbers twice as good. Sabathia has given two good performances in the World Series on short rest, Burnett gave one. The next four years that Burnett will share with the Yankees will likely be just as unpredictable as the first. The only thing you can expect of the hard-throwing right-hander is a stint on the disabled list. Maybe two.



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