Friday, October 30, 2009

World Series, Game 2: Who Was That Guy?

Sometime around the sixth inning, I think it was the exact moment Ryan Howard asked home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson if he could hit off a tee, I realized who the guy pitching for the Yankees reminded me of.

The wirey build, the ink, the lizard-like features, that insane curve ball. This guy was just like A.J. Burnett, the Toronto Blue Jays star.

I remember him dominating the Yankees with relative easy the past couple of years, but I guess the Yanks were fortunate to miss him when they played the Jays this year. Cashman should really look into acquiring that guy. What a beast.

We have an A.J. Burnett, too, but he's never been anything like the stud in Toronto. Our A.J. looks the same, acts the same, also compartmentalizes violent tendencies by watching 300.

But our Burnett has always been a bit of a mystery.

The type of pitcher who can look like an All-Star for four starts and then look like a career minor leaguer for the next eight. His previous three outings in the postseason provided a condensed version of his 2009 season: bursts of brilliance mixed with epic ugliness.

It was, well, annoying.

That's what made Burnett's outstanding performance (7 IP, 1 ER, 9 K, 2 BB) against the Phillies on Thursday all the more refreshing. After a season in which he teased you with his talent, dangling the carrot in front of Yankees fans, Burnett finally showed why Brian Cashman wanted him so badly in the first place.

New York paid $82.5 million for the A.J. Burnett who pitched like the guy in Toronto. He showed up about six months late, but say this for him, he knows how to make an entrance.

Burnett was locked in from the first pitch of the game, and he needed to be. The Yankees offense continued to struggle this postseason, mystified by Pedro Martinez and his 88-mph fastball.

Two big swings and Mariano Rivera ensured that Burnett's effort wouldn't be wasted.

Say this for Mark Teixeira: he hasn't had many hits in the postseason, but he's made them count. He only has nine hits in 46 at-bats, but they include the single preceding A-Rod's game-tying homer off Nathan in Game Two of the ALDS, the walk-off homer that followed that night, the bases-clearing double in Game 5 of the ALCS and the game-tying homer off Pedro last night.

And then we have Hideki Matsui, who showed again why the Yankees will miss him next year when he's batting in the middle of the Mariners lineup.

Matsui has gotten a ton of big hits over the years. If last night proves to be his last big hit as a Yankee, it's only fitting that it was against Pedro. Matsui's first signature postseason moment came in the famous eighth-inning rally of Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS.

I think we remember who was pitching that game as well.

The series shifts to Philly on Saturday night, right in the middle of thousands of Halloween parties. Andy Pettitte gets the call opposite the effeminately-voiced Cole Hamels, a game that shapes up like a potential classic.

Keep your focus on the game, people. The girls in the slutty costumes will be there after Mo closes things out in the ninth.

Dan Hanzus can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.

1 comment:

Rob Abruzzese said...

This entire season has made Brian Cashman look smart. Last night made him look brilliant.