Name the bigger upset: Bobby Abreu hitting a home run that triggered A.J. Burnett’s sixth-inning implosion or was it Abreu hitting a two-run shot off Mariano Rivera?
The most popular answer would be the former, but both events happened last night in a 6-4 Yankee loss to the Angels.
Not only did those events happen, but the Yankees’ third-straight defeat ended when Curtis Granderson got too aggressive, guessed wrong and was picked off first by Jordan Walden.
That came after Rivera gave up runs in consecutive appearances for the second time this year and gave up first Yankee Stadium home run in nearly 15 months.
“You don’t see it very often,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said. “He happened to throw one [bad cutter] tonight.”
The Yankees wish they could say the same thing about Burnett, whose first five innings might have inspired a little optimism only to be washed away by another episode of that one bad inning syndrome. That turned into jeers by a portion of the crowd.
“I’d boo myself,” Burnett said. “They boo because they want to believe. Then you give them a slight little reason not to.
“You can’t help not to listen to it. But if you pitch better the noise on the outside goes away.”
The first reason to not believe in Burnett was caused by Abreu connecting on a full-count fastball for a game-tying home run. The second reason to not believe occurred when Burnett’s curveball did not go low enough and sailed over Granderson’s head for a two-run double.
The final reason not to believe occurred after Burnett intentionally walked Maicer Izturis. He reached a full count on Peter Bourjos and walked him on a high fastball. That preceded Burnett’s major league-leading 15th wild pitch, which gave the Angels a 4-1 lead.
“He was really good,” Girardi said. “He got in some long counts and if there was any difference; that was probably it.”
“Of course it’s frustrating, but at the same time I’m leaving it all on the field,” Burnett said. “The four in the sixth, but I kept my team in it up to then the best I could. That’s what I’m going to continue to keep doing.
While the Angels spent five innings trying to score off Burnett, the Yankee bats went silent against Dan Haren for 6.2 innings. They had just Granderson’s 29th home run in the first among three hits, before finally figuring out Haren’s late movement on cutters and sliders.
The Yankees scored their second run on Eduardo Nunez’s single and tied the game after knocking out Haren on Derek Jeter’s two-run single off Fernando Rodney. After Rivera gave up the home run, the Yankees had runners on first and second with Mark Teixeira up when Granderson guessed wrong.
“He was trying to get to second base,” Girardi said. “Our aggressiveness has won us a lot of ballgames. It’s going to happen every once in a while.”
Granderson getting picked off and Rivera not locating a cutter properly are events that can be described as rare occurrences. Burnett’s one bad inning seems to happen way too often and though he is making his next start Monday in Kansas City, it is tough to get confident in him even though he has the capability to dominate.
Follow Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.