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If Only A.J. Burnett Could Pitch Against Oakland More Often

A.J. Burnett allowed three runs in six innings last night, and by definition, that's a quality start. He struck out eight, walked two, and perhaps most importantly, stayed away from the disastrous innings he's so prone to. During many of his August starts, the Jeff Larish double-play grounder that ended the fourth would have been a double into the gap. The Kurt Suzuki fly out to end the fifth might have cleared the fence.

But last night — be it because he threw an effective change-up, or because the calendar has changed from August, or because the A's just aren't a very good hitting team — he pitched well enough to keep his spot in the rotation. That shouldn't need to be said for the guy who's supposed to be this team's No. 2 starter, but it's nice, nonetheless, to be able to say it.

The Yankees got some help in this one — Brett Anderson's second-inning error led to three of the Yankees' four runs — but Burnett wouldn't have earned his tenth win if not for the bullpen, which protected a one-run lead for three innings, even though Oakland got the tying runner into scoring position in each of those innings. Scoring a dozen runs and winning in a rout is nice, but this is the type of game they'll need to win in the postseason — just against better teams than Oakland.

The Yankees play five day games in a row now — weather permitting, of course — beginning with the series finale this afternoon, in which they'll go for their sixth straight win and a four-game sweep of Oakland. CC Sabathia's on the mound, and with Tampa Bay idle, said win would extend their lead in the East to a game and a half.

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Photo: Bill Kostroun/AP