A.J. Burnett’s(notes) last few starts appear to have eased the New York Yankees’ concerns about his readiness for the postseason. Against the Tampa Bay Rays, he’s given them little reason to worry all year.
Burnett seeks his 100th career win and the playoff-bound Yankees close the regular season on Sunday against the Rays, who won’t get the opportunity to repeat as AL champions.
Burnett (12-9, 4.10 ERA), who signed an $82.5 million, five-year contract with New York (102-59) in the offseason, was 1-5 with a 6.14 ERA in nine starts from Aug. 1-Sept. 12, leading to concerns about his effectiveness going into the playoffs.
The right-hander, though, has had three consecutive quality starts since and is 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA over that stretch. He gave up two runs, three hits and struck out eight in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-3 win over Kansas City on Tuesday, although he did not factor in the decision.
“If I’m going to pitch in the postseason I definitely have to go one pitch at a time,” Burnett said. “That’s just me. A little bit of the streakiness was due to mechanics. But we looked at some video and straightened out some kinks.”
There’s been little problem with how he’s fared against the Rays (84-77) this year. Burnett is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA in four starts this season with 30 strikeouts and only eight walks in 27 innings.
Burnett will try to keep New York from ending the regular season on a four-game skid after falling 5-3 on Saturday. The Rays’ Dioner Navarro(notes)—who broke into the majors with the Yankees in 2004—hit a two-run homer off Andy Pettitte(notes) and rookie Jeff Niemann(notes) won his 13th game.
The Yankees have scored 10 runs and hit .206 in their last three games. Manager Joe Girardi said New York cannot afford to look ahead yet.
“I’m sure guys are looking forward to next week,” he said. “You try not to. We’ve talked about playing good baseball, and we have not done it here.”
The Rays have won 11 of their last 15, but that does little to comfort a team that had big expectations after reaching the World Series for the first time last season.
Trying to end 2009 on a high note, rookie Wade Davis(notes) (2-1, 3.45) will make his first start against the Yankees and look to win his third straight decision. After giving up eight runs in 2 2-3 innings against Boston on Sept. 12, the right-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA in his next three starts.
He gave up one run in seven innings of a 3-1 victory over Baltimore on Tuesday.
Chamberlain went 9-6 with a 4.78 ERA in 31 starts. His workload was limited and he has pitched 156 1-3 innings.