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.