Coming off back-to-back horrendous outings, A.J. Burnett could be pitching to stay in the New York Yankees' starting rotation. Little suggests that a start against the Boston Red Sox will help his cause. Burnett, winless against the Red Sox over the last three seasons, again tries to shake his recent miseries and prevent New York from falling 2 1/2 games out of first place in Thursday night's series finale at Fenway Park.
After winning Tuesday's opener 5-2 to pull within one-half game of AL East-leading Boston, the Yankees (81-53) appeared to have a good chance of reclaiming first place Wednesday after scoring four times in the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead. However, the Red Sox (83-52) jumped back ahead in the bottom of the sixth on Jacoby Ellsbury's two-run homer, and went on to win 9-5. New York, which played its fourth straight game without Alex Rodriguez (sprained left thumb), dropped to 3-11 against Boston on the season, and will fall 2 1/2 games out for the first time since Aug. 9 if it loses the series finale.
The Yankees enter September with a six-man rotation, but Joe Girardi said before Wednesday's loss that they'll soon go with five starters. That may put Burnett (9-11, 5.31 ERA) in jeopardy of being removed. Burnett was tagged for nine runs and nine hits in five innings of Friday's 12-5 loss to Baltimore. It was the second straight disastrous performance for the right-hander, who was shelled for seven runs in 1 2-3 innings of a 9-4 loss to Minnesota on Aug. 20. He finished August 1-2 with an 11.91 ERA in five starts. Since signing with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season, Burnett is 0-4 with an 8.71 ERA in eight starts against the Red Sox, and has a 10.61 ERA in six outings at Fenway. In his lone start of the season against Boston on June 8, he was knocked around for eight runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings of an 11-6 defeat.
David Ortiz hit a two-run homer off Burnett in that game, and is 6 for 19 with three home runs and three doubles against him since 2009. Ortiz also hit a two-run homer Wednesday, his 28th of the season, and is batting .509 with seven home runs, seven doubles and 16 RBIs during a 14-game hitting streak. He has five homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games against New York. Scheduled Red Sox starter Jon Lester (14-6, 3.09) is 2-1 in three starts against the Yankees this season, but has compiled a 5.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in those games, compared to a 2.85 ERA and 1.15 WHIP against all other opponents in 2011. The left-hander has been aided against New York by an offense that has backed him with 7.00 average runs of support. His 6.92 run-support average on the season ranks second in the majors.
Another bargain of a price in this spot in yet another park so hitter friendly it would make one want to break out the Nintendo system. Sure helps when you have two of the hotter hitting teams facing each other, as the Red Sox lead the majors with a .280 average while second with 170 HR. Just when the experts write him off and say he's either out of shape or too old, Ortiz (.313 28 88) silences his critics en route to another 30 HR 100 RBI season. Adrian Gonzalez leads the AL in hitting (.341) with 23 HR and his 103 RBI are second in the majors to Curtis Granderson who has 107. Jacoby Ellsbury (.313 24 84) has also put up numbers that exceeded team expectations, and with Kevin Youkilis (.266 17 78) on the disabled list, Dustin Pedroia (.308 17 72) has more than held his own. You might see AJ Burnett in the Yankee rotation for the final time, and that could be even after a just average outing against the Yankees nemesis. Meanwhile, the Yankees continue to hit the ball well in the second half of the season as their overall average has climbed to .268 leading the majors with 188 HR. Lester may also have his hands full dealing with Granderson who is tied for the lead league in HR with 38. Mark Teixiera (.247 35 100) is keeping pace with his teammate and crushing opposing pitching all season. Robinson Cano (.306 23 97) is also making quite a second half surge and may even surpass last season's career marks. Nick Swisher (.270 21 77) is hitting the ball comparable to last season once again as well. Given the elements, it all points to another high scoring evening in Beantown. We look to make it 6 straight and 10 out of the last 11. I'll be at the window around 8:30 this evening waiting for you to cash with me. Best of luck however you play!