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Archive for October 4th, 2011

Ever since Friday’s ALDS opener was suspended by rain, the specter of A.J. Burnett has hung over the Yankees like the Sword of Damocles. Now, with their backs to the wall, the team’s worst fears have been realized. Not only is Burnett making a postseason start that seemed improbable just a few weeks ago, but if he doesn’t pitch well, there’s a good chance the Yankees season will be over.

AJ Burnett was smiling before, but not after his 2010 ALCS start.

The Yankees have played 367 postseason games covering 71 series and 50 seasons. To say that the franchise’s October history is extensive would be an understatement. However, in all those games, only two have featured a starting pitcher for the Yankees with a higher regular season ERA (minimum of 100 innings) than the 5.15 rate Burnett will carry to the mound in tonight’s ALDS game 4. The last time the Yankees entrusted such an unlikely candidate with a playoff start was the fourth game of last year’s ALCS. Who was the pitcher? None other than A.J. Burnett.

Although it wasn’t an elimination game, the Yankees entered game 4 of the 2010 ALCS also needing Burnett to draw them even, but it proved to be too much to ask. Burnett, who posted a 5.26 ERA during the season, surrendered five runs over six innings in a 10-3 loss that pushed the Yankees to the brink of elimination. This time around there is no margin for error. If Burnett turns in a similar performance tonight, the sword will fall.

Misery loves company, so joining Burnett in the exclusive club of ineffective starters given a playoff start for the Yankees is Irving Darius Hadley, better known as Bump. A journeyman right hander, Hadley joined the Yankees in 1936, and emerged as the team’s fifth starter. After going 14-4 with an ERA+ of 108, Hadley capped off his season with a 2-1 victory in the third game of the World Series.

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