The Yankees know they are in the playoffs and would have home-field advantage through the ALCS. They know CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova will be starting the first two games next weekend at Yankee Stadium.

They do not know who will start Game Three or if A.J. Burnett will appear on the postseason roster.

That is what Burnett was auditioning for in the opener of a day-night doubleheader and his 7 2/3 innings during a 6-2 win over the Red Sox may have earned him some consideration.

“We’re going to continue to look at it and talk about it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Our opponent has something to do with who we’re going to pitch and how we’re going to go about this, but we still don’t know that opponent.”

 

“It’s up to him,” Burnett said. “It’s up to him. I just want to come out and give him headaches. I’ve been giving him headaches all year why not give him a good headache?”

Before the game, Girardi described Burnett’s last two starts against Seattle and Minnesota as really good for three-inning bursts. He cited the final three innings in Seattle, the first three frames Monday against the Twins and was hoping to see Burnett put it all together.

For the most part, Burnett put it together.

In his longest outing since July 29, Burnett allowed two long solo home runs to Jacoby Ellsbury, who hit bombs into the right field seats on his fastball. The other hits were a leadoff single by Ellsbury that opened the game, a seventh-inning leadoff single to David Ortiz and an eight-inning leadoff double to Marco Scutaro.

Perhaps more important than Burnett’s second win in three starts — and fourth instance of pitching into the eighth — was that he did not let problems compound themselves.

“Maybe today I went out with a little more focus and made sure it doesn’t get out of hand and make sure it doesn’t get away,” Burnett said. “I just made it a point [to do that].”

Example one was in the top of the second with a 2-0 lead.

Burnett walked David Ortiz on four pitches. Then he retired Adrian Gonzalez with a changeup that turned into a double play and then struck out Conor Jackson on a knuckle curve.

Example two occurred in the fourth with a 4-0 lead. Burnett gave up a home run to Ellsbury and walked Ortiz on four pitches with two outs. One pitch later, he retired Gonzalez on a fastball.

The third example occurred in the sixth this time with a 5-1 lead. Burnett gave up Ellsbury’s second home run, but six pitches later the inning was over as he retired Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia on easy outs.

If that was enough to get him into the postseason nobody is ready to say just yet. The Yankees will hold meetings to weigh having a hard thrower such as Burnett going after two other hard throwers or another discussion to counter the hard throwers with a soft-tossing, wily veteran such as Freddy Garcia.

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“It’s a pass the baton,” Burnett said. “We don’t root for anybody to go out [and pitch poorly]. I want Freddy to go out and pitch like he did and he wants the same for me.”

Garcia entered into that discussion a day earlier during a 9-1 win. Like Burnett, but not to as drastic of an extent, Garcia had struggled against the Red Sox. Saturday he put it together, allowing six hits in six scoreless innings.

“Whoever Joe wants, Freddy and Bartolo [Colon] have been outstanding for us the whole year,” Burnett said. “I want everybody to pitch. I want everybody to do well. That’s the main goal with our starters to do the best we can no matter what the situation is.”



Follow Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher for Yankees coverage right through the playoffs.

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