Burnett ready for weight of Game 2 start
Right-hander knows Saturday's outing could be pivotal
NEW YORK -- Now that the matter of postseason experience is behind A.J. Burnett, the Yankees' Game 2 starter in the American League Championship Series can look ahead to other things. Sort of.
"I've got six innings in the postseason," Burnett said. "I have a ways to go to catch a lot of these guys. I know a little what to expect, crowd-wise and everything. It's still going to be a crazy and exciting and emotional game. By all means, I know how important my start is."
Though Andy Pettitte also pitched quite well in his AL Division Series start against the Twins, Burnett -- who made his postseason debut two days earlier -- threw well enough to put a clamp on his No. 2 spot in the rotation. And so Burnett will start Saturday against the Angels, opposite Joe Saunders, in a game that -- for better or for worse -- will shift the tide of the ALCS.
The Yankees would be happy with a reprise of Burnett's ALDS start, in which he struck out six and allowed one run over six innings. Burnett would prefer something even better.
"Control is always important when it comes to me," said Burnett, who also walked five in his no-decision against the Twins. "It's getting ahead that is the main thing. And when I do get ahead, not to overdo it and try to make pitches better."
Translation: cut down on the walks and put batters away when he has the chance. Burnett simply cannot afford to put as many runners on base as he did last Friday at Yankee Stadium.
"Can't do that against a team that can run and can do things like Anaheim," Burnett said.
He should know. In two starts against the Angels this season, Burnett averaged a baserunner and a half per inning pitched, due in large part to Los Angeles' .306 batting average against him. Though he was 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in those games, Burnett was not entirely pleased with those performances.
Some Angels, such as Vladimir Guerrero, Burnett has handled quite well -- just nine hits in 42 at-bats for the former American League MVP. Others, such as former Yankee Bobby Abreu, have had Burnett's number -- 20 hits and 12 walks in 77 career plate appearances.
Hoping that the good will outweigh the bad for Burnett on Saturday, when they can take a 2-0 ALCS lead, the Yankees will likely use Jose Molina -- fast becoming Burnett's personal catcher -- behind the plate. Prior to his six strong innings in Game 2 of the ALDS, Burnett was 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA in 11 starts with Molina behind the plate, 5-5 with a 4.96 mark with regular catcher Jorge Posada.
Though the Yankees have not officially announced that Molina will catch Burnett for an eighth straight start on Saturday, Girardi hinted strongly in that direction prior to Friday's Game 1.
"We haven't really talked about it with our players," Girardi said. "What I can tell you is that it worked very well the last time. We'll put the lineup up [Saturday], but it seemed to work very good."
More than the catcher of his choice, however, Burnett will be rooting for the weather of his choice. He likely won't get it. Saturday's forecast calls for heavy rain in the Bronx, threatening the postponement of Game 2. Yet Burnett -- an Arkansas native who split the first 10 years of his career between Miami and the climate-controlled Rogers Centre in Toronto -- insisted Friday that cold weather does not faze him.
"I've pitched in pretty bad weather before," Burnett said. "So the weather is not going to be a factor. And if I need an extra day because of the weather, I'll do what I have to do to be ready for Sunday."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.