Joe Girardi named A.J. Burnett the starter for Game Four Tuesday night in Detroit. The manager’s reasoning was he felt the inconsistent right-hander was stretched out and that some inconsistencies seemed to be improved during September.
After an 11.31 ERA in five August starts, Burnett was somewhat better in September. He pitched to a 4.30 ERA while going 2-0 in five starts. That included pitching into the eighth inning last Sunday against the Red Sox. During the last month Burnett struck out 36 in 29 1/3 innings.
The strikeouts represented Burnett’s highest monthly total since striking out 39 in 37 1/3 innings in Sept. 2009.
According to Burnett, the reason is improvement in off-speed pitches.
“I think my off-speed is better,” Burnett said. “That’s going to be [a] key for me — getting my off-speed over for strikes. That’s where all the strikeouts came from for me that last couple of starts. I was attacking the zone and being aggressive and not worrying about too much.
According to PitchFX data, Burnett struck out 26 while using his knuckle curveball and one with his changeup.
Burnett faced the Tigers May 5 in Detroit and April 2 in New York.
At Comerica Park he took a 6-3 loss, allowing two earned runs and three hits in seven innings. In New York he was a 10-6 winner, allowing three runs and five hits in five innings.
Though their comeback fell short, the Yankees were satisfied with seeing 34 pitches from Jose Valverde in a non-save situation. Valverde had to face seven hitters.
If the Yankees get to him in a save situation, it would be similar to the events of June 25, 2010 to June 26, 2010 in Los Angeles. The Yankees faced Dodger closer Jonathan Broxton in a non-save situation in a 9-4 loss and saw 45 pitches. The next night, they came back from a 6-2 deficit against Broxton and won 8-6 in extra innings.
“I think it helped,” Mark Teixeira said. “If it was only one inning, we did see a lot of pitches.”
If the Yankees would have lost 5-4, the move to bring in Luis Ayala could have been second-guessed.
For the second straight game, Ayala was scored upon as he hit Brandon Inge with a pitch and then gave up a base hit to Don Kelly.
Ayala finished the regular season with a 2.09 ERA, but Girardi could have gone to Rafael Soriano or David Robertson, both of whom have yet to appear.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher for live updates from the games and news all postseason long.