Garcia makes case for Game 3; A.J.'s next

September, 24, 2011
9/24/11
9:12
PM ET
It's your turn, A.J.

Freddy Garcia made a strong case to pitch Game 3 of the American League Division Series by tossing six shutout innings against Boston on Saturday.

A.J. Burnett has a chance for rebuttal on Sunday when he takes the ball in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Boston.

The Game 3 starter has come down to Burnett or Garcia almost by default.

Phil Hughes is a long shot because he hasn't pitched since Sept. 12 due to back spasms. Bartolo Colon is likely out because he is winless in his last nine starts, with a 5.58 ERA over that span.

CC Sabathia is a lock to pitch Game 1 and will likely pitch on short rest in Game 4. Assuming he starts Game 2, Ivan Nova could come back on regular rest to pitch Game 5, with others waiting in the wings in a win-or-go-home scenario.

So that leaves Burnett or Garcia as the logical choices for Game 3.

"We'll have plenty of decisions to make before Friday," Joe Girardi said, adding that Garcia was "definitely" in the running for a Game 3 start.

The veteran right-hander left Girardi with plenty to think about after a dominant outing against Boston.

He gave up six hits, walked one and struck out three in six scoreless frames. Garcia has lost just once in his last nine starts, going 5-1 with a 3.99 ERA over that span. Saturday was his fourth scoreless start of the season and he has allowed four earned runs or fewer in 22 of his 25 outings.

"What he did today is what he's done most of the year for us," Girardi said.

The manager was encouraged by Garcia's effective use of multiple pitches. He was also happy to see him bounce back after a rough start against Toronto on Sept. 18.

"I needed to pitch good today ... and I did it. And I feel good about it," said Garcia (12-8, 3.62), who signed a minor league contract with the Yankees in spring training. "Now I’m looking forward to my next start. I don't know when, but hopefully I'll be in the playoffs."

Some baseball analysts believe Garcia would struggle in the postseason because his mid-80s fastball invites consistent contact. The perfect playoff starter, according to said analysts, has swing-and-miss stuff and piles up strikeouts.

But Girardi said threw a bit of cold water on that theory by saying he liked the idea of Garcia giving the Yankees' rotation some variety.

"When you get guys that are all similar, it's easy for guys to stay on that stuff as they go day to day to day," Girardi said. "Freddy’s the one guy that gives us a real different look."

One night earlier, Girardi said he hadn’t ruled anyone out as a possible postseason starter, Burnett included.

That may raise the eyebrows of Yankees fans who've grown frustrated with Burnett’s inconsistency.

But no other starter has emerged as sure thing for Game 3, so, at the very least, Burnett has an opportunity to pitch his way into the rotation with a strong start Sunday.

The enigmatic right-hander says he's going to approach his final start of the season as if he is preparing for the playoffs.

"I feel like I can take the ball right now and my team's got a chance to win," he said Friday. "You can’t go out and get caught up in everything else. I’m just going to go out and try to get as many outs as I can, that’s all we can do."

Garcia certainly did all he could do in his bid for a rotation spot. Now, it's A.J.'s turn.

Ian Begley

ESPN New York Writer

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146