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Tuesday October 19, 2010 3:09 pm

A.J. Burnett, not CC Sabathia to pitch in pivotal Game 4




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, MLB, Playoffs,

A.J. BurnettIf Cliff Lee is the current definition of a great pitcher, then A.J. Burnett has to be the opposite. As Lee continues to throw 10+ strikeouts in a game, setting career highs and playoff records along the way, Burnett make his 2010 playoff debut in Game 4 of the ALCS on Tuesday night. Burnett’s start comes at a pivotal time for the Yankees, as a win will even the series at two games apiece, but a loss will put them into a hole where another loss will end their season.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has chosen to start Burnett over team ace CC Sabathia, knowing that a loss technically isn’t the end for New York. Sabathia would end up having to throw on three days’ rest, and while he can do that, the rest of the rotation can’t. A Game 4 loss with Sabathia on the mound would signal either Burnett or Phil Hughes to pitch in Game 5, with Hughes also having to pitch on three days’ rest.

Girardi certainly doesn’t want Burnett or Hughes to pitch in a do-or-die Game 5, so he’s leaving that possibility to CC Sabathia, which is the right choice. It also means that Sabathia will not be able to pitch in Game 7, if needed, but the point is to at least force a Game 7 by winning now, not to prepare for one that may never come. Sabathia has to be the one Girardi calls upon in Game 5 as there is far more at stake there compared to Tuesday’s Game 4.

Nobody needs a win more than Burnett right now. After an awful season that could not be excused by any kind of long-term injury, Burnett needs to prove himself and his contract to the New York faithful by pitching well when it means most. Tonight’s game is not only pivotal for the series, but for Burnett’s career. Another performance like any of the over 20 forgettable ones he had this season, and he’ll never be able to show his face again. However, he might need to be better than his no-hit performance on May 12, 2001 to win back the crowd.

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