Burnett takes mental step forward in loss
July, 30, 2011
By Matt Ehalt | ESPNNewYork.com
In the boxscore, this game will be a loss for A.J. Burnett, a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the lowly of the Baltimore Orioles. To the Yankees pitcher, though, he believes he came away with a victory in his own unique way.
"That's the one thing I can take away from this game, it's a big step mentally," Burnett said. "I didn't let the home run bother me, I didn't let the other one bother me, I went out there every time with the inning in the past, close the door and start a fresh inning and gave it all I could. It was just that one mistake."
On a night when Burnett pitched well enough to win, as his offense gave him little support once again, what Burnett described as mental steps were what he had to settle for as he fell to 8-9 on the season.
Burnett gave up four runs in eight innings but also had a season-high 10 strikeouts. It's the first time he's struck out double-digit hitters since Sept. 23, 2009 against the Angels and the eight innings tied a season-high.
The righty has now just four times in his last 16 starts and has not won in his last five starts, with his last victory coming on June 29 against Milwaukee. In those five starts, in which he's 0-3, the Yankees have scored just 10 total runs while Burnett was in the game.
"You know, I thought he threw the ball pretty well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It’s unfortunate that we didn’t score many runs tonight and the few mistakes that he made, they hit."
Like he has done in most of his recent starts, Burnett came out of this game regretting one pitch: a two-run home run to Mark Reynolds in the second inning.
After walking Derrek Lee on five pitches, Burnett threw a first-pitch fastball to Reynolds and the slugging third baseman smacked the ball into the Yankees bullpen to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead they never relinquished. Burnett said he should have paid more attention to his pitch selection.
"You got a free-swinging team and Reynolds is a first-pitch fastball guy and when I throw five in a row to D. Lee and walk him, I might want to mix something else in there," Burnett said. "That's the only thing I would change in the whole game."
Including that home run, though, it proved to be an odd start for Burnett. The Orioles swung often against Burnett, striking out ten times, but when they did connect, they sent the ball flying.
All five of the team's hits were for extra bases as they hit two home runs and three doubles and there were plenty of hard-hit outs sprinkled in. Burnett also gave up an RBI double and home run to Lee for Baltimore's other runs.
Yet, at times, Burnett mowed down the Orioles and had his good stuff working as evident by his 10 strikeouts. In his final three innings, Burnett had five strikeouts and he had nine swinging strikeouts total. He fanned Lee on a check-swing with two men on in the eighth to end his night.
Burnett said he thinks his strikeouts might have come from him working more from the right side of the rubber, instead of the left side, which gives him more angle on his pitches. He started working on this change in his last bullpen session and he said it allowed his pitches to get into lefties and get right in on right-handed hitters.
While the change helped the strikeouts, ultimately it still couldn't help him get and his team a win.
"The results weren't what I wanted, but as far as me taking the mound with the same demeanor, same mindset, no matter what happens, I think that's why you saw me in the rhythm I was in," Burnett said. "Russell (Martin) did a good job and we had a good rhythm all game and it's unfortunate that one little mistake."