The A.J. Burnett signing in the 2008-2009 offseason was arguably one of the more controversial contracts the Yankees doled out to a pitcher in some time. For as derided as Carl Pavano's 2005 pact would end up becoming, from what I recall most everyone seemed to think it was a good idea at the time.
Those opposed to throwing five years and $82 million at Burnett saw an underachieving, injury-riddled yet talented hurler prone to the one big inning that frequently doomed his starts. The yeasayers (and in case you didn't pick up the sarcasm in this post's title, I was, and still am a big Burnett fan) saw an opportunity to plug the Yankee rotation with a pitcher who is as unhittable as it gets when he's on, and at the very least would provide much-needed above-average innings.
Though A.J. Burnett will probably always be prone to the "one big inning" meltdown, so far in 2010 he's doing seemingly everything he can to dispel the "good A.J." and "bad A.J." dichotomy that's plagued him throughout his career. Even if you're firmly entrenched in the "I can never completely trust A.J. on any given start" camp, you'd have to admit that Burnett's been a pretty critical component of the Yankee pitching staff since coming aboard last year, and it seems fairly unlikely that they make it to -- let alone win -- the 2009 World Series without him.
In any event, good A.J. continued his 2010 coming out party last night, stifling the Orioles for one run over 7 1/3 innings -- along with a season-high eight strikeouts -- en route to a second consecutive 4-1 Yankee win. I know Burnett's last two outings have been against the O's and all, but who cares --they're better than their record indicates, and they still have a number of quality hitters throughout the lineup, even if most of them to do seem to be in a collective Tex/A-Rod-type slump.
The offense was basically carried by the bottom third of the lineup, with the homegrown Brett Gardner (single, BB, two runs), Ramiro Pena (two sacrifices and two RBI) and Frankie Cervelli (3-3 with a triple!) all making big contributions to the win. Cervelli also made the defensive play of the game, falling into the dugout to catch a foul pop-up.
Per Michael Kay, with the win the 2010 Yankees became just the fourth team in franchise history to win eight of its first 9 series--the last Yankee squad to start off this hot was the 2003 edition.
The Yanks go for the sweep today in a dreaded (at least for me) weekday afternoon game, as Andy Pettitte takes on Daniel Hernandez. With an afternoon game today and the off day tomorrow, once today's game concludes the Yankees won't be back in action for over 48 hours. That's atrocious, and even more reason to go for the jugular today so we go into this annoying hiatus on a positive note.