The Yankees pretty much need to win on Tuesday night, yet they’re starting A.J. Burnett on the mound. They’re also starting Francisco Cervelli behind the plate.
Those are the decisions of manager Joe Girardi, a man who may have to be placed in the Witness Protection Program if the 60,000 fans in the Bronx are subjected to a beating like the one they witnessed on Monday.
Girardi said before the ALCS began that he’d be going with Burnett in Game 4, and that’s a decision he’s not wavering from, despite being down 2-1 in the series. Throwing Cervelli into the lineup in a must-win playoff game is a wrinkle he saved for Tuesday afternoon.
Now, it’s obvious that Burnett and Posada have their history, and it’s not a good one. Burnett’s thrown 136 1/3 innings to Posada, posting a 5.61 ERA and allowing opposing hitters to hit at a .291 clip and post a .373 on-base percentage. The two appeared to be in the midst of a little fight over pitch selection during a Burnett meltdown at Fenway Park.
Cervelli has been a bit of an upgrade in terms of helping Burnett’s numbers, but he’s far from a savior. When pitching to Cervelli, Burnett has a 4.33 ERA in 143 1/3 innings, with a .268 opponents’ batting average and .351 on-base percentage.
Do those modest improvements to Burnett’s stats warrant the removal of a catcher with 117 postseason games on his resume? What if the guy replacing him has just one career postseason at-bat?
For Girardi, it’s enough. Good luck to him if the Yankees lose on Tuesday night.