A.J. Burnett and Eli Manning are the toast of New York right now. Look at that sentence carefully, it's probably the last time you will ever see it without breaking out laughing or smashing your computer screen.
Usually the word 'toast' and the Yankees pitcher or Giants quarterback are applied after Burnett has given up five runs in a third-inning meltdown or Manning was burned for a couple of fourth quarter interceptions.
Today, the city is rejoicing for both of their hometown whipping boys and their recent success.
All Burnett did was stave off being eliminated from the ALDS last night against the Detroit Tigers and force a Game 5 in the comfy confines of Yankee Stadium.
Burnett pitched a gem of a game and had a little help-- to put it mildly-- from centerfielder Curtis Granderson to make fans forget about his 0-for August and generally miserable season and Yankees career.
The surly Burnett almost smiled after being pulled in the sixth inning after allowing only four hits and one earned run. Hell, I thought it was a giddy Jimmy Fallon with tattoos and a Yankees hoodie hugging Granderson in the dugout after the centerfielder made a second sensational catch to save a bases loaded shot to the outfield moments later.
Nobody's going to compare Burnett to Andy Pettitte after 5 2/3 innings, but he got the job done.
Manning, the hero on the other side of Manhattan, is making fourth quarter comebacks a habit this season and is backing up his giggle-inducing claim that he's in Tom Brady's class.
On Sunday, the NFL's third-rated QB threw two fourth quarter touchdowns in less than a minute to erase a 27-17 deficit against the Arizona Cardinals just a week after a stirring victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. In that game, the Giants trailed 16-14 entering the last quarter against their division rivals with less than five minutes remaining.
Manning's early season redemption is easier to swallow than basing Burnett's on a single clutch playoff performance. The Yankees pitcher still has many non-believers, but at least not today.
The Giants QB, with the befuddled sideline look, still has a big following in New York. When was the last time you saw anyone, or at any time, wearing a "Burnett" pinstriped jersey or tee-shirt?
What could have been the worst nightmare imaginable for Burnett last night was avoided by Granderson's first inning catch with the bases loaded. The second one was icing on one of his walk-off shaving cream pies.
A hit would have produced at least three Tigers' runs and the inevitable A.J. meltdown which seems to follow. That one play turned Burnett from an $82.5 million flop into today's hero. Imagine the calls for A.J.'s head if he blew last night's game. You would have Occupy Yankee Stadium protests outside Brian Cashman's office.
If it wasn't for that over-the-shoulder grab last night, after only two outs, we might have seen the last of old A.J. in pinstripes.
Burnett only allowed four hits in 5 2/3 innings, after a shaky first when he walked the bases full, but overcame the pressure. Even if the innings were more workman-like than fluid, Burnett succeeded in quieting the potent Tigers hitters until the Yankees put the game out of reach.
Tomorrow, the Yankees face a must-win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive and the Giants face the Seattle Seahawks in the Meadowlands. The kind of game Manning has been known to look past and implode.
For Burnett, there is always the hope of another playoff start after seemingly being banished to the bullpen. He did win the game.
Today, both players can reap the rewards of their recent successes and hope for more good things to follow.
Remember, in New York, yesterday's zero is today's hero and is tomorrow's zero...