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Coming into Game 4, there was a lot of chatter over whether or not Joe Girardi was making the right call by starting A.J. Burnett over CC Sabathia on short rest. Girardi insisted that he was confident in the struggling righty. And Burnett made Girardi look like a genius, right up until his second-to-last batter of the game.
Bengie Molina hit a lead-changing three-run home run off A.J. Burnett in the sixth inning, and the Rangers only continued to pile on after that against the Yankee bullpen in winning Game 4 by a score of 10-3 and taking a 3-1 series lead.
Despite all the talk, Burnett came out and looked sharp in the early going. He was perfect through the first two innings, and he was even staked to a lead when Robinson Cano hit a solo homer off Rangers starter Tommy Hunter in the bottom of the second. It appeared that right fielder Nelson Cruz was interfered with by fans as he attempted to make a leaping catch, but umpires ruled that no interference occurred, and the homer was upheld.
Burnett then experienced some struggles in the third, when he hit one batter and walked another. Those two runners would come around to score on a fielder's choice groundout and an infield single by Michael Young, putting the Rangers on top 2-1.
However, the Yankees came right back in support of Burnett and tied it up with a two-out RBI single by Curtis Granderson in the bottom half. And after Burnett kept the Rangers scoreless in the fourth, the Yankees gave him the lead once more on a Brett Gardner groundout with the bases loaded. That groundout was hit to the right of shortstop Elvis Andrus and required a tremendous diving stop to prevent the ball from getting to the outfield, so the Rangers caught a break, but even still, the Yankees were out in front. And they were also into the Ranger bullpen, as Hunter had been pulled by Ron Washington in the inning.
Burnett preserved the 3-2 lead by escaping a jam in the top of the fifth. The bottom saw the Yankees attempt to add some insurance, when they put two men on with nobody out, but they weren't able to convert. Additionally, first baseman Mark Teixeira injured his hamstring in the inning running out a groundball, and was taken out of the game. Marcus Thames took over his spot in the lineup, and Nick Swisher moved to first base.
One got the sense that the Yankees might regret wasting such an opportunity, and the reason why became evident in the sixth. Burnett very nearly tossed another scoreless inning. After allowing a leadoff single, he retired the next two batters he faced. He then issued an intentional walk. That brought Bengie Molina to the plate, and when Burnett threw him a first-pitch fastball, all his good was undone. Molina ripped a high fly ball deep into left field and just tucked it inside the foul pole for a three-run homer that put the Rangers on top 5-3.
Stunned, the Yankees were unable to muster a rally in their half, and the Rangers added to their lead in the seventh when Josh Hamilton pulled a solo home run, and Ian Kinsler later drove in a runner from second by dropping a blooper into no man's land in right field. Kinsler's single put the Rangers up 7-3.
The Yankees got their chance to rally in the bottom of the eighth, when the Ranger bullpen ran into trouble and walked the bases loaded with one out. Darren Oliver then came in and appeared to clip Nick Swisher's right pant leg with a low inside breaking ball, but the umpire disagreed, and Swisher flied out to shallow center for the second out. Lance Berkman subsequently pulled a hard groundball to third base, but Michael Young made a nice pick and throw to second to finish it off. The Yankees went down scoreless, and had wasted another chance.
The Rangers added three more runs in the ninth on home runs by Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. Oliver stayed in to close out the bottom of the ninth, and after four hours and five minutes of baseball, the Rangers had a win and a 3-1 lead in the series.
Game 5 will be played Wednesday, at 4:07pm ET, and will pit CC Sabathia up against C.J. Wilson in a rematch of Game 1. The Yankees now have to win out if they want a chance to advance, while the Rangers simply have to win one of their next three.
The top of the ninth put this one in the books, and once again, the bottom of the ninth was little but a formality. Despite a leadoff single by Brett Gardner, Darren Oliver retired the next three hitters with little trouble, wrapping up a 10-3 win that wasn't nearly as lopsided as its final score.
Facing reliever Sergio Mitre, Josh Hamilton led off the inning with his second home run of the game - a towering fly to right-center field. Two batters later, Nelson Cruz absolutely destroyed a ball into left for a two-run shot that extended the Texas lead to 10-3.
Any fans who're left in the stadium might be asleep. All the conscious have descended upon the exits.
The Ranger bullpen helped them out. Derek Holland walked the leadoff batter. Darren O'Day came in and walked one of the two guys he faced. Clay Rapada then walked Robinson Cano to load the bases with one out, despite the fact that the Yankees hadn't put a ball in play.
Ron Washington went to the bullpen and called on Darren Oliver to try and get out of the jam. The first batter Oliver faced was Nick Swisher, and in an 0-1 count, Oliver threw a low, inside breaking ball that appeared to clip Swisher's right pant leg. The umpire, however, ruled it a ball, and Swisher flew out to shallow center shortly thereafter.
It was a huge, huge break for the Rangers. The next batter - Lance Berkman - grounded a ball sharply to third base, but Michael Young was able to pick it out of the dirt and make a throw to second in time for the force out. That ended the inning, and left the Yankees still behind by four.
There's going to be a lot for fans to complain about, as the Swisher non-HBP was an important play. But there's no going back now. What's done is done, and the Rangers find themselves in excellent position.
Derek Holland has, very quietly, made one hell of an appearance out of the bullpen. After inheriting a difficult situation from Tommy Hunter, Holland's thrown 3.2 shutout innings, allowing just two baserunners.
The seventh was Holland's latest masterpiece. Armed with a big lead, Holland got Brett Gardner to ground out to lead off, and then he had little trouble disposing of both Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter.
We're only in the eighth inning now, and it's only a four-run game, but already the crowd in New York is thinning out.
The boo-birds are out in a big way in New York.
Bengie Molina's three-run homer in the sixth was bad enough. Then Josh Hamilton hit a solo blast in the seventh. But the Rangers still weren't done. After Joba Chamberlain came in to replace Boone Logan, Vladimir Guerrero ripped a double to the left-center gap, and Nelson Cruz drew a walk. With two on and two out, Ian Kinsler followed by hitting a pop-up to no man's land between first, second, and right field. The ball dropped between three Yankee defenders, allowing the Rangers' seventh run to score.
That's where we stand going into the stretch. The Yankees have nine outs to score at least four runs if they don't want to be pushed to the brink of elimination.
Bengie Molina hit a lead-changing three-run homer in the top of the sixth to put the Rangers up 5-3. Derek Holland was then able to work through the Yankees 1-2-3, preserving the score. That brought us to the top of the seventh, where the Rangers have only decided to add.
Josh Hamilton came up against lefty specialist Boone Logan with two out and none on. Logan's first pitch sailed to the backstop. Logan's second pitch was blasted high and deep to right-center field for a solo home run that extended the Rangers' lead to three.
A series that began so well for New York is turning into an absolute nightmare. The Rangers are still batting in the seventh, now against Joba Chamberlain.
The Yankees blew a golden opportunity to add to their lead in the bottom of the fifth, when they had two on with none out and couldn't make hay. One wondered if they'd be made to rue their failure to convert.
They're probably ruing now.
A.J. Burnett allowed a leadoff single in the top of the sixth. He managed to retire the next two batters he faced before issuing an intentional walk to David Murphy to face Bengie Molina. But as it turns out, that wasn't such a good idea, as Burnett gave Molina a first-pitch inside fastball and Molina blasted it deep to left field, right down the line. The fly ball sneaked inside the foul pole and counted a three-run homer that turned a 3-2 Yankee game into a 5-3 Ranger lead.
A huge, huge hit, that will have all of New York wondering why Joe Girardi left Burnett in the game as long as he did. We're into the bottom of the sixth, where Derek Holland remains on the mound.
We have our official adjustment following Mark Teixeira's injury. Marcus Thames was immediately inserted as a pinch-runner for Teixeira. In the top of the sixth, Thames is remaining in the game and playing right field. Nick Swisher, meanwhile, has shifted from right field to first base, where he has limited experience.
The Yankees had a promising situation developing in the bottom of the fifth, when they put their first two hitters on against Derek Holland. Then Mark Teixeira hit his fielder's choice grounder and had to come out of the game with a hamstring injury. And Alex Rodriguez - up next - followed that up by grounding a low away fastball to Elvis Andrus, who made an easy flip to Ian Kinsler, who threw to Mitch Moreland to complete the 6-4-3.
The Yankees' failure to add any insurance could prove costly. For the time being, they do still have a narrow 3-2 lead going into the sixth.
With two on and none out in the bottom of the fifth, Mark Teixeira came up and hit a groundball to third. And on his way down to first base, he grimaced and pulled up, holding the back of his leg.
Yankee trainers came out of the dugout and helped Teixeira off the field. From the looks of things, his right hamstring tightened up, and he's been replaced by Marcus Thames at first. The Yankees, obviously, will hope that Teixeira is okay, although it is worth noting that he remains hitless in the series.
It is very possible that Mark Teixeira will not make another appearance in the ALCS.
With two outs and nobody on, Elvis Andrus slapped a single into left field and stole second base, and Michael Young walked, to bring Josh Hamilton to the plate. Hamilton tried to help Burnett by giving him a foul pop-up, but as Brett Gardner attempted to make a catch behind third base, a fan leaned out and prevented him from doing so.
That gave Hamilton and the Rangers new life - a dangerous situation for the Yankees. But Hamilton would end up flying out to center on a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.
Burnett's allowed two through five, with 81 pitches. He's done his job.
The Yankees were able to chase Tommy Hunter from the game with just one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth. In came lefty Derek Holland, and though Holland did about the best he could with the situation, the Yankees managed to take a 3-2 lead.
Brett Gardner grounded a ball to Elvis Andrus' right that looked like it would sneak into the outfield for a base hit. Andrus, though, came up with a diving stop, and threw to third base just in time to beat Robinson Cano to the bag. That fielder's choice scored Alex Rodriguez.
The next batter - Francisco Cervelli - struck out looking on a fastball, stranding two runners.
In the top of the fourth, A.J. Burnett was able to get back to what makes him successful. He pitched around a leadoff single by Vladimir Guerrero to keep the Rangers scoreless and send a tie game into the bottom half.
And in the bottom half, the Yankees are currently knocking on the door. Tommy Hunter beaned Alex Rodriguez to lead off. Robinson Cano followed with a groundball single, and after Nick Swisher struck out in a full count, Lance Berkman got into a full count of his own and pulled a groundball single into right to load up the bases.
Given Hunter's long inning, Ron Washington decided that he'd seen enough and went out to pull Hunter and replace him with lefty Derek Holland. Hunter's line:
70 pitches (46 strikes)
Hunter has allowed two runs, but is responsible for three more, as Holland tries to work his way out of a difficult situation.
All of a sudden, this game's chock-full of action. Suddenly armed with a 2-1 lead, Tommy Hunter made quick work of the first two Yankees he faced in the bottom of the third. But then Derek Jeter came up and blasted an inside cutter deep to center field, just off the top of the fence. The ball caromed back away from Josh Hamilton, and Jeter made it into third base for an easy two-out triple.
Up next, Curtis Granderson ripped a single off the glove of a diving Ian Kinsler. That base hit scored Jeter from third, tying the game, and that's where we stand going into the fourth. Hunter's pitch count stands at 44.
Perhaps the bliss could only last so long. After spinning a flawless first two innings, A.J. Burnett reverted to the A.J. Burnett everyone was fearing would show up in the third. He walked David Murphy to start off, and uncorked a wild pitch and beaned Bengie Molina when Molina was squaring around to bunt. That put two runners on, and they were both able to advance on sac bunt by Mitch Moreland.
Elvis Andrus came up next and bounced a grounder to score Murphy from third, tying the game. And with two down, Michael Young chopped a swinging bunt past the mound, and Alex Rodriguez wasn't able to come up with a throw. That infield single scored a second run, and it's now 2-1 Rangers going into the bottom of the third.
Burnett threw 18 pitches in the inning.
Robinson Cano's controversial home run was very nearly not the only home run of the second inning for Tommy Hunter. Lance Berkman came up and ripped a long, high fly ball deep down the right field line for what was initially called a home run. However, the umpires convened and went to replay, and upon viewing the replay, it was evident that the ball disappeared behind the foul pole when seen from a left field perspective. As such, Berkman wound up with nothing but a long foul, having come just a foot away from doubling the Yankees' lead.
Berkman went on to strike out, and it's 1-0 New York going into the third.
Do we have a Jeffrey Maier situation here? You be the judge.
With one down in the bottom of the second, Robinson Cano stepped up against Tommy Hunter and launched an 0-1 inside fastball into the right field seats for a solo home run to put the Yankees in the lead.
The home run, though, was not without its controversy. Cano's ball narrowly cleared the wall, and fans were reaching out with their hands into the field of play. As right fielder Nelson Cruz attempted to make a leaping catch, his glove came into contact with those hands, preventing him from getting full extension.
Ron Washington came out to argue, but the umpires ruled it a home run without meeting and without going to replay. It is therefore 1-0 New York.
A.J. Burnett clearly came out motivated, which was evident to anyone who was watching his first inning. Would that be able to continue, though? All eyes were on how well he would carry it over to the second.
He carried it over pretty well. He wound up throwing 18 pitches - twice as many as he threw in the first - but he still set the Rangers down in order, with swinging strikeouts of Vladimir Guerrero and Ian Kinsler sandwiching a pop-up by Nelson Cruz.
The crowd's behind Burnett 100%. And he looks to be on top of his game.
There were questions about both A.J. Burnett and Tommy Hunter coming into tonight's Game 4. Burnett answered a few of them very a very strong top half of the first. Hunter went and had himself a strong first as well.
Hunter needed only seven pitches - six strikes - to work through the Yankees' 1-2-3. Derek Jeter led off with a grounder to short. Curtis Granderson followed by grounding to first, and Mark Teixeira then swung and missed at a curve in the dirt. That did it, and the first inning saw six total batters, two strikeouts, and only 16 pitches, with 14 strikes.
A great start by two iffy arms.
Given all the nervousness coming in, A.J. Burnett and the Yankees could not have asked for a better start. Fresh from a long rest and amped up by a very vocal and supportive crowd, Burnett got ahead of Elvis Andrus before getting a fly out. He then froze Michael Young with an 0-2 changeup, and to close out the inning, Josh Hamilton hit a weak tapper to second base.
Burnett threw nine pitches in a perfect first, with eight strikes. He looked very much in control. The only question now is how long this will last.
Elvis Andrus, SS
Michael Young, 3B
Josh Hamilton, CF
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Nelson Cruz, RF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
David Murphy, LF
Bengie Molina, C
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Tommy Hunter, SP
Despite all of his struggles, A.J. Burnett is still going to throw to his personal catcher in Game 4, meaning Francisco Cervelli gets the start over Jorge Posada.
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Lance Berkman, DH
Brett Gardner, LF
Francisco Cervelli, C
A.J. Burnett, SP
(Sports Network) - A.J. Burnett hopes to put a miserable regular season behind him this evening when he takes the ball in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series trying to draw the New York Yankees even in the best-of-seven set against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium.
Burnett went into last year's playoffs as the team's No. 2 starter, but he has yet to pitch this postseason following an awful year that saw the righty go 10-15 with a 5.26 earned run average.
"I mean, I'm not taking anything away [from this season] -- I'm not trying to ignore the year and say it wasn't a big deal," Burnett said of his career-high 15 losses. "It was a big deal."
He hasn't pitched since October 2 and was a miserable 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA in his final 12 starts.
"I haven't pitched in a long time, so I haven't struggled in a long time," Burnett said. "I feel like I'm where I need to be. It's been a long time since I've been on the mound, but I'm sharp and I expect things to go as 'normal A.J.'"
Burnett was 1-1 with a 5.27 ERA in five postseason starts for the Yankees last year, but pitched to a 1.86 ERA in his three outings in the Bronx.
"If you can understand it and really look at it and be honest with yourself, [you can learn from it]," Burnett said of his rocky season. "I don't ponder too much about what happened, but I've got a pretty good idea why. The thing is, it's the playoffs. It's October. So it brings the best and the worst out."
Burnett actually had some success against the Rangers this season, as he was 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three starts against them. For his career against Texas he is 4-3 with a 3.66 ERA in 12 games (11 starts).
No matter how Burnett pitches, though, New York's bats are going to have to be better than they were against Cliff Lee in Game 3 on Monday. Lee added to his spotless playoff resume and continued his mastery of the Yankees by outdueling postseason stalwart Andy Pettitte in Texas' 8-0 Game 3 victory.
Josh Hamilton's two-run homer in the first inning spotted Lee (3-0) with an early lead, and that was all the left-hander needed, as he tied a career-high with 13 strikeouts and allowed only two hits and one walk over eight innings for the Rangers, losers of 10 straight postseason games to New York before a Game 2 victory on Saturday.
The Rangers have homered in all eight postseason games, longer than any streak they had during the regular season.
"Any time you can get that deep in the game and not give up any runs in the postseason, that's huge," Lee said. "Josh hitting that home run in the first made things a lot easier, that's for sure."
Over the past two seasons, Lee has quickly established himself as the standard for pitching prowess in the playoffs. Texas' midseason acquisition became the third pitcher in MLB history to win his first seven playoff decisions and is the first pitcher with three games of 10-plus punchouts in one postseason.
Hamilton added a double in the ninth to jump-start a six-run inning that turned a two-run game into a lopsided rout.
Pettitte (1-1), unbeaten in his previous nine postseason starts, was sharp despite a 10-day rest between outings, yielding only five hits with no walks in seven innings for New York, which has dropped only two games at home the last two postseasons. Lee was the winning pitcher in both, with the other coming in Game 1 of the World Series while he was with the Phillies.
"We've played three great games and we can't wait to get the next game going," Rangers catcher Bengie Molina said. "It's a great feeling knowing [Lee's] going to spot the ball where you ask him. He's a dream come true for catchers. He's an amazing pitcher."
The Yankees have managed to hit just .194 so far in the ALCS and have struck out 30 times through the first three games.
Hoping to give the Rangers a two-game advantage this evening will be righty Tommy Hunter, who will be making his first-ever Yankee Stadium start.
"It's probably going to be loud," Hunter said. "I would expect it to be. You know, it's a baseball game. That's what these other guys keep telling you; all of us young guys. We probably have the youngest bullpen ever in the ALCS. I mean, probably. You know, just being out there with those guys, being out there with [Darren] Oliver, he pretty much says, 'It's just another game.'"
Hunter was 13-4 in the regular season, but was charged with the loss in Game 4 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay, as he allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits in four innings.
Hunter has faced the Yankees twice and is 0-1 against them with a 6.75 ERA.
"I mean, you know, there's a lot of tradition. Everybody knows that," Hunter said. "There's 20-some-odd world championships that have been won here. Everybody knows that. We would like to win our first. So you've got to go out there and you've got to play baseball, and as soon as you step in between the lines, it's still a game. You've just got to block it out."
The Yankees and Rangers split eight games during the regular season.
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