ALDS Comes Back to New York … Thanks to A.J. Burnett

October 4, 2011 – Tonight, A.J. Burnett resembled Rocky Balboa in the movie Rocky IV. Burnett came into a hostile environment with his team’s back to the wall — facing elimination — and did what every writer (particularly the New York scribes in the Comerica Park press box) and most of the baseball said he couldn’t do … WIN.

And like the Rocky movie scripts, it appeared as if Burnett was going to get pummeled at the outset of the game. But after Burnett loaded the bases in the first inning, he got out of trouble on a jumping grab by Curtis Granderson.

Burnett strategically moved through the next five innings, making quality pitches when he had to and gaining more confidence with every pitch. He only gave up one run, and of greater importance, he only walked one batter after the first inning — hence the reason he only gave up one run.

The differences between Burnett and Balboa are that Burnett is real as opposed to Balboa’s exaggerated character, which, of course, if far from real.

In other words, while Burnett’s performance was impressive and even awe-inspiring, it wasn’t unbelievable.

Burnett is a competitor, and he took his pride with him to the mound tonight and got it done.

Joe Girardi took Burnett out of the game at the perfect time — when the pitcher gave up a single with two outs in the sixth inning. It wasn’t too early, it was the exact right time for Girardi to turn the game over to the most dominant bullpen in baseball.

What happened after that was almost as unreal as the Rocky movies. The Yankees tacked on six runs in the eighth inning, during which time they sent 11 batters to the plate.

Rookie Jesus Montero singled in his first major league postseason at-bat and five other Yankees collected hits in the inning.

As I’ve written on this blog before, I believe Montero is a star in the making, and tonight may have been just the beginning of a long run of October heroics.

But for now, all that matters is that the ALDS — and our team plane— are going back to New York!

–Alfred Santasiere III

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