A.J. Burnett wasn’t great — managing to mostly limit the damage in scattering 10 hits and allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings — but was good enough to pick up his first win since June 29 (though in fairness, in the six Burnett starts prior to this one — save the 18-7 drubbing of the White Sox — the Yankees only averaged 1.83 runs per start during the time A.J. was actually on the mound in those six games. Not saying this absolves him of lousy pitching, but he probably hasn’t been quite as bad as it seems he’s been considering how little the Yankees have scored for him. Of course, on the flip side, one could also make the case that it’s a bit tougher to score runs when your starter digs you a hole. Anyway, food for thought), which also randomly happened to be his first-ever August win as a Yankee as the Bombers beat back the Royals 7-4.
Burnett haters will cite the fact that he couldn’t hold the scant 2-0 lead the Yankees handed him after two, and while that was undoubtedly frustrating, and Burnett didn’t seem to have much on his pitches by the 5th inning despite coming out of the gate throwing 94mph gas, I’d rather look at the plus side and note that he didn’t fold after his offense picked him up and got him back a lead. He didn’t miss many bats — 5 swings-and-misses out of 88 pitches — and his defense picked him up with a few nice plays, but limiting the damage to only three runs despite putting 11 men on base in just shy of his six innings has to be considered a positive.
Speaking of gas, Felipe Paulino was hurling flame out there, averaging 95mph on his fastball and getting it all the way up to 98. He kept the Yankees off balance through the first five, mixing in a hard 88mph slider and 87mph changeup. Before Paulino came apart in the 6th I couldn’t help but wonder how he’d been let go by the Rockies for nothing, and how no one else but the Royals decided to take a flyer on him, but the effectively wild thing doesn’t generally work against a patient team like the Yankees, and Paulino paid for only throwing 58% of his 107 pitches for strikes and walking five in 5.1 innings (and only six swings-and-misses).
The offensive heroes for the Yankees were Derek Jeter, who had a huge 3-4 day (including a triple) with 3 RBI, and Brett Gardner, who picked up two hits and drove in two. Since returning from the DL Jeter’s been nothing short of stellar, with a .313/.372/.433 line over 33 games (and those numbers are prior to last night’s game).
The bullpen once again came up big, throwing 3.1 innings of one-run ball, the lone run yielded by Rafael Soriano — his first since returning from the DL. On the flip side, the Yankees finally seemed to break through the previously impenetrable Royals bullpen, scoring a run on hard-throwing lefty Tim Collins and another on fellow hard-throwing lefty Everett Teaford.
And finally, the Royals, as you know, are an ultra-young and also aggressive team, though their aggressiveness didn’t quite pan out in this one — Johnny Giavotella in particular was caught stealing twice to end innings.
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