A.J. Burnett salvaged his much-maligned season and the New York Yankees staved off playoff elimination because of a pair of magnificent game-saving catches by centerfielder Curtis Granderson. New York defeated the Detroit Tigers, 10-1, at Comerica Park on Tuesday night to even the ALDS at two games apiece and force a Game 5.
Nobody was more thankful for Granderson's acrobatic catches than Burnett-- and he showed his love.
The series shifts back to New York and the deciding game will be played Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
Burnett was the unexpected-- after originally being slated for the bullpen-- starter for tonight's do-or-die game. The erratic hurler has been the bane of the Yankees rotation most of the season and had a lot to prove.
Manager Joe Girardi has stuck by Burnett all year and, after last Friday's rain postponement threw the Yankees scheduled starting rotation out of whack, he was left with no choice but to use the battered Burnett to extend the Yankees season.
It looked like another bad night for A.J. right from the start after he loaded the bases on three walks (one intentional) with two outs in the first inning until Granderson made an unbelievable over-the-shoulder catch of a Don Kelly fly ball to centerfield. Granderson's catch saved at least three runs and-- more importantly-- a possible Burnett meltdown.
Granderson and his glove weren't through yet and he made an even more spectacular diving catch in the sixth of Johnny Peralta's two-out shot to left center with a runner on base.
When the centerfielder returned to the dugout, he was mobbed by his appreciative teammates and none more than Burnett who motioned his game-saver over to him and gave him a cheek-to-cheek hug.
Burnett (1-0) also got plenty of love from his happy teammates when he was pulled in the sixth inning. The Yankees infielders all crowded around the pitcher when Girardi took the ball from his hands and the players patted Burnett on the back for a job well done.
The Yankees starter finished with 5.2 workman-like innings, giving up only four hits and one earned run.
It was a big change from this August when Burnett was just plain awful. This victory redeemed his value to the team and, hopefully, tranquilized his fragile psyche.
After Burnett was relieved in the sixth by Rafael Soriano, a six-run Yankees eighth inning blew the game open, while Phil Hughes and Boone Logan pitched the final hitless innings.
Thursday night's game will be a rematch of the Game 1 starting pitchers. The winner of that game, Ivan Nova, will start for the Yankees and the Tigers will counter with Doug Fister.
Burnett may have one of the worst seasons of his career but it funny how one good game can make everyone now see only rainbows and unicorns.
If anyone needed a hug tonight, it was Burnett and he got one... then gave another.