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Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Updated: June 9, 4:00 AM ET
Burnett comes up short on big stage

By Rob Parker
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees needed A.J. Burnett twice Wednesday night.

Sadly, Burnett didn't deliver in either case.

In a game that cried out for a hero, for a stellar start in a big spot on the biggest stage in front of the brightest lights, Burnett failed once again against the Boston Red Sox.

Nobody was looking for Burnett to pitch a no-hitter or even a shutout -- just finally beat the Red Sox. The Yankees needed a starter to come out and give them a fighting chance to hold on to first place in the American League East.

A.J. Burnett
A.J. Burnett had an opportunity to deliver some chin music to David Ortiz and declined.

Instead, Burnett gave up three runs in the first inning en route to an embarrassing 11-6 loss to the Red Sox before 47,863 at Yankee Stadium on a hot and humid night.

The Yankees -- now in second place, one game behind Boston -- also needed Burnett to straighten out David Ortiz, make him uncomfortable at the plate. It didn't happen.

Some thought that just maybe Burnett would buzz Ortiz with an up and in fastball in his first at-bat, especially since manager Joe Girardi said he wasn't fond of Ortiz's bat-throwing stunt after he blasted a homer Tuesday night.

Burnett (6-4, 4.37 ERA) instead downplayed the whole incident. "I didn't see it,'' he said. "Who cares? He's been pretty much doing that his whole career.''

Under normal circumstances, you could buy Burnett's attitude. But not here and now.

The Yankees have allowed the Red Sox to come in and push them around in their own crib. In a series for first place, the Yankees have served as nothing more than fodder for the Red Sox. Boston now is 5-0 in the Bronx this season.

In the first two games of this three-game set, the Yankees were basically out of the games before they even got started. The only thing worse than simply losing is not putting up a fight. That's what Burnett did in the first when Ortiz blasted a two-run homer for the second straight night. "The first inning he got hit hard,'' Girardi said of Burnett, who now is 0-4 with an 8.01 ERA in his past eight starts against Boston. "He made some mistakes with his fastball. You have to make your pitches. It's the bottom line.''

Burnett, who was coming off a strong seven-inning performance in a 4-2 victory at Oakland, just didn't have his good stuff from the word go. Coming in, the hope was that Burnett would rise to the occasion since he had pitched so well at home this season. Coming into the game, he was 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA.

Nope.

His one-time success against Boston, when he was with Toronto, has disappeared. Not surprisingly, Burnett is tired of talking about the past. "I'm not on Toronto anymore,'' he snapped at a reporter. "So I'm tired of hearing it. It's just retarded. If there's anything different, I made pitches in Toronto. I didn't make pitches tonight."

It was ugly early on, as the Red Sox once again plated three runs in the first inning before fans could even get settled in their seats. And for the second straight night, Ortiz punished Yankees pitching with his hot bat. "I should have stayed away there,'' Burnett said about the 3-2 pitch that went over the middle of the plate. "But I challenged him, and he did what he's supposed to do with it.''

Of all pitchers on this roster, you would have thought Burnett would have been the guy to get Ortiz's attention. But Burnett allowed Ortiz to crank a full-count fastball over the right-field fence for a 3-0 lead. "I'm never happy when I give up three in the first,'' Burnett said. "I was able to get out of it somehow.''

For sure, it was a miracle the Yankees (33-26) had been able to stay on top with all the injuries and all the players playing subpar so far. Coming into this series, the Yankees somehow had the best record in the AL and held first place.

But now they have to fight back, finally beat the Red Sox here. Maybe CC Sabathia will lead the charge since Burnett couldn't and wouldn't.