To New York Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett, Hurricane Irene should have come sooner to Camden Yards tonight. The struggling starter, fighting for his rotation life, was left in by manager Joe Girardi and had to fend for himself during a typical Burnett meltdown in the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles.
Girardi only watched as Burnett suffered through the disastrous inning. His starter allowed six runs, six hits with one error through the first two innings.
It looked like another early hook for the much-maligned pitcher, but it wasn't to be. There would be no rescue.
It seemed like the only thing that could save the beleaguered pitcher would be a game called for rain-- or, more appropriately, a hurricane.
Maybe it was the manager's version of tough love. After all, wasn't it Burnett who walked off the mound cursing Girardi after being lifted after only getting eight outs in his last outing?
Could Girardi actually be thinking that the Yankees could come back from a six-run deficit like they did yesterday against the Oakland A's?
Whatever the reason for Girardi to let Burnett slowly lose whatever pride he is clinging to-- he gave up a home-run and four-straight doubles and dug a big hole for the Yankees, it was kind of sad to watch the pitcher throw what looked like an Orioles batting practice.
The game got off to a rough start after the Yankees committed two errors and nearly a third before Burnett escaped unscathed. It was only a preview of Burnett's eventual early-inning meltdown.
In the top of the second, the Orioles' bats and Irene's impending barrage began to rain down on Burnett.
A home-run followed by four straight doubles gave the O's a 4-0 lead. Yankees pitching coach, Larry Rothschild, came out to calm down Burnett. A two-run home-run by the O's made it 6-0. Burnett was probably the only person in Baltimore who wished the Category-3 storm would hurry ashore and wash out this game.
You didn't have to be a Burnett lover to feel some compassion for his slow death. There was one moment when it looked like the combustible Burnett was ready to blow. He didn't, but there was still more misery to follow.
In the fourth inning, Burnett threw two wild pitches where two runners advance, then Derek Jeter bobbles a possible double-play ball and it becomes a 7-0 O's lead.
Girardi left Burnett struggle through the fifth and even after a triple made it 9-1, let Burnett finish out the inning. Mercifully, Burnett closed out the embarrassing performance by striking out the final batter he faced. Too little, way too late.
Burnett knew it was over even before he got to the dugout. No cursing or public displays of insolence. The unusually stoic Burnett walked through the dugout, spoke with his catcher Russell Martin and brushed by Girardi on his way to the locker room. There was no eye-contact and the two passed like ships caught in Irene's swirling winds.
There must be some deep-rooted psychological reason for Girardi's actions tonight, but what did he accomplish and why? When did the manager turn into Dr. Phil?
In the fifth, it looked like the manager was purposely avoiding going out to the mound and pulling Burnett. Was he avoiding a confrontation, or was it a chance to let his pitcher finish the inning and march from the mound with a sliver of dignity?
Finally, at the end of the fifth, Burnett was put out of his misery. He struck out the batter and stiffly walked to the dugout.
What did Girardi's actions say? Was leaving Burnett in the game to sweat out a 9-1 losing effort some kind of pat on the back. It's like saying, 'Hey kid, I knew you could go five innings.'
Or was it retaliation for Burnett's outburst to stay in his last game? Like saying, 'You wanted it kid, you got it.'
Confidence builder or ego-breaker, Girardi's move possibly cost the Yankees a win.
There are a lot questions still to be answered. Did Burnett just pitch his way out of the five-man rotation? Phil Hughes-- who is in line to get the fifth spot-- was just as bad last night, but he was the beneficiary of three grand slams.
Tonight, there would be no grand slams, comebacks or Jorge Posada mopping up at second base for Burnett.
Hurricane Irene will have passed by Sunday, but for Girardi and his rotation the storm might just be brewing.