Good A.J. + Timely HRs = 5-2 Win over Brewers
|Rodriguez, Al, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||3||3||.299|
|Nunez, E, SS||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.243|
|Burnett, AJ(W, 8-6)||7.0||7||2||2||2||4||0||4.05|
|Rivera, Ma(S, 21)||1.0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1.72|
Game Review from MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
NEW YORK — Russell Martin wouldn’t be the first catcher to proudly weather a few welts as souvenirs of a job well done, so he wasn’t seeking sympathy when those aches slowed his bat a few ticks.
Martin notched his first extra-base hit in more than a month on Wednesday, belting a three-run homer to support A.J. Burnett’s strong effort as the Yankees defeated the Brewers, 5-2, at Yankee Stadium.
“As long as we’re winning, it doesn’t bother me as much,” said Martin, who slugged a fourth-inning shot off Milwaukee starter Shaun Marcum. “If we were losing more, it would probably affect me a bit more, but I go out here and my main focus is to try to win the ballgame.”
And winning is something the Yankees have grown used to in recent days, having secured 14 victories in 18 games, despite Martin’s career-high 68-at-bat drought without more than a single.
Jorge Posada also hit a homer that was upheld by instant replay behind Burnett, who won for the second time in five starts, limiting damage as he hurled seven-plus innings of two-run, seven-hit ball.
“My hook was in the zone,” Burnett said. “When I needed it to bounce, it bounced. I was able to get ahead, for the most part. I threw a lot of everything to lefties and righties. I just mixed it real well.”
As he chugs to the All-Star break, Burnett improved to 8-6 with a 4.05 ERA. Those numbers won’t punch a ticket to the Midsummer Classic in Phoenix, but after his troubled 2010 season, the Yankees would have signed up for that deal in a split-second.
“You always wonder how a guy is going to bounce back, but I had a good feeling about A.J.,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
“All during last year, A.J. kept saying, ‘Give me the ball. I’m going to figure this out.’ There were days when he didn’t figure it out, and there were tough starts for him, but he never quit on himself.”
One thing in Burnett’s favor, he says, has been Martin’s presence — helping the battery quickly develop into one of the best pitcher-catcher relationships the right-hander has experienced at the big league level.
Martin realized that he needed to challenge Burnett to keep his head in the game, insisting that the righty use his changeup to get in hitters’ heads when the fastball and curveball become too friendly.
“It’s been good,” Martin said. “He just goes to work and is a fun guy to work with. He cares when he’s out here, he wants to win and I feel like we work well together.”
Martin said the key to keeping Burnett comfortable is coaching him not to worry about the runners, just to execute pitches. That helped on Wednesday, as he received the assistance of three double plays, including one turned on a great second-inning catch by center fielder Curtis Granderson.
Granderson flagged down a deep Mat Gamel drive near the warning track and fired to Robinson Cano, who then doubled off Corey Hart at first base.
“Unbelievable play,” Burnett said. “That ball was crushed. Especially to double him up like that, it was a huge play.”
Ryan Braun had a first-inning RBI single and Prince Fielder knocked in a run with a sixth-inning groundout for the only scoring off Burnett, who walked two and struck out four.
“A.J.’s got good stuff,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “He has a live fastball and a great curve. We did have chances and got guys on base. Whenever he gets into a count where he can use that curve, he’s tough.”
An eighth-inning Eduardo Nunez throwing error ended Burnett’s night after 102 pitches, but Dave Robertson pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam before Mariano Rivera locked down the ninth for his 21st save.
“It just seems like you give him the ball anytime now and it doesn’t matter,” Burnett said of Robertson. “He’s taken that eighth-inning role and run with it.”
The second overturned home run call in Yankee Stadium history became a footnote to the victory, joining Lance Berkman’s homer-turned-foul ball from Game 4 of last year’s American League Championship Series against the Rangers.
Facing Tim Dillard in the sixth, Posada belted a drive to right field that clipped the top of the fence and struck a fan, bouncing back onto the field of play.
Posada pointed to the stands as he was tagged between first and second bases, and after umpires converged for a brief review — the eighth ever at Yankee Stadium — Posada was given his ninth homer of the year.
“I feel good at the plate,” Posada said. “My approach is better. I’m getting good pitches to hit. My thought process is a little better, and they’re falling for me.”
The first Yankees run was scored in the fourth by Cano, who tripled off the center-field wall as Morgan hit the padding full force, falling to the ground but quickly scrambling to his feet.
Cano would score on a Nick Swisher RBI single, and a hit by Posada set up Martin’s three-run blast, the battered backstop’s first since May 24 against the Blue Jays’ Ricky Romero.
“He’s a grinder,” Burnett said. “He goes and takes his at-bats very serious, but the good thing about Russ is that he can go 0-for-30 and you’d never know it. He cares more about taking care of us.”