Looks like I may have spoken a bit too soon in gushingly praising A.J. Burnett. While almost every Yankee fan was likely waiting for the other shoe to drop with Burnett after such a sterling stretch of outings, it sure would've been great had it been a flip flop instead of a steel-toed boot. Alas.
Burnett was atrocious last night, giving up 8 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings en route to a 9-3 Yankee loss to Boston. In addition to having almost no command he was somewhat betrayed by his defense as well as a laughably awful strike zone. "Left fielder" Marcus Thames continued to show why he should never be allowed to stand on the outfield grass ever again. Additionally -- and not that this was his fault -- for some reason they had A-Rod positioned way off the bag, which ended up being disastrous as the Sox seemingly hit 30 doubles down the third-base line that might have otherwise been fielded. I guess righties don't usually pull Burnett when he's on?
Although somewhat incredibly, as bad as Burnett was, he still managed to exit the game with a 3.40 ERA on the season. Goes to show how good he'd been prior to last night.
Regardless, the damage was done and it become clear that this just wasn't going to be the Yankees' night, given the way Jon Lester was pitching. 3-0 seemed like a reasonable deficit to battle back from, but once it became 6-0 the game was all but over. Lester had all his pitches working for him, and even when he was getting behind in the count he was able to get guys to swing at pitches out of the zone. His cut fastball was downright nasty, not to mention the fact that the Yankees' M.O. of wearing out the opposing starter after 5 innings/100 pitchers goes completely out the window against a pitcher with impeccable command like Lester. He's one of the few pitchers I can't get mad at the Yanks for jumping on the first pitch against, since you can't really wear him out and oftentimes that first pitch will be the best one a hitter sees for the entire at-bat.
As much as I hate to see the Yankees lose, it's tough not to appreciate a pitching performance like Lester's when he's that on. His final line was a dominating 7IP, 4H, 2R, 2BB, 7K. It also doesn't hurt that his personal story makes him an easy guy to root for -- he's one of the few Sawx I don't become visibly and audibly enraged at when I seem him on my screen. Needless to say I wish he was on the Yankees.
Also, if the Yanks have to lose, I'd much rather it be in a blowout that they never led in the first place as opposed to a close game blown by the bullpen late. If anything, the Sox did me a favor in jumping out to a 9-2 lead by 10pm, as it made the decision to get a good night's sleep quite easy.
That all being said, my biggest concern was that the Yanks might not only lose, but suffer the ignominy of being no-hit by their archrivals, as they failed to pick up a hit through the first three innings. Thankfully my fears were laid to rest as Nick Swisher clubbed a solo bomb to lead off the 4th inning. Swisher apparently leads the AL in home runs so far in May; hope he can keep his inspired play up.
But the biggest shot for me was A-Rod's solo jack two batters later. A-Rod's power outage has been my biggest concern to date on the young season, and I'd been hoping all weekend to see him deposit one over the Monstah. Would love to see the floodgates open and 'Rod start to go on a power tear.
In any event, the Sox snapped the Yankees' six-game winning streak, and also dropped the Yankees to 0-2 in the ESPN Sunday Night Marathon Heartbreaker. Have I mentioned how much I hate nationally televised games in Fenway Park?
Despite the loss, there were some positives to be drawn from the weekend:
- Phil Hughes showed he can pitch and pitch well in the toughest park in Major League Baseball.
- The Yankees still won 9 of their first 10 series.
- Though the Yanks had a chance to leap into first place (while I'm glad the Rays lost, I can't believe Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game. Couldn't have happened to a bigger asshole. Also, the Rays have been on the receiving end of MLB's last two perfect games. I wonder if any other team has had that particular dubious distinction?), they're still only 1/2 a game out.
- A-Rod and Tex doubled their combined 2010 home run output from four to 8!
- "Good" A.J. should be on the hill for his next outing.