October 19, 2010
ALCS Game 4 Pre-Game Thoughts
So, before I scramble up to the top of the ballpark to take my slot in the auxiliary seating, I'm pondering the possibilities.
1) There are a few Texas players who have done damage against A.J. Burnett: David Murphy (5-for-17, four walks, a homer) and Josh Hamilton (three extra-base hits in 19 PA), with Elvis Andrus (six times on base in 17 PA), but that just betrays the extent to which there isn't a big backlog of past history for Rangers hitters to draw on.
2) Burnett's brand of fun involves an ugly amount of indifference to baserunner mayhem, since they went 37-for-42 on steals with him on the mound. Since so much of that was achieved with Francisco Cervelli (24-for-26) behind the plate, any suggestion that his personal catcher helps him anywhere but between the ears would be a bit silly.
3) Burnett spun a pair of quality starts against the Rangers earlier this year, on April 17 and August 10, and then gave up two in four innings in a rain-afflicted September 11 contest.
4) Against that, Hunter has next to no experience against the Yankees, just his contribution to that 9/11 game, in which he struck out an uncharacteristic eight batters in five. Hunter's 12.7 percent strikeout rate on the season is the lowest of any starter on the four remaining post-season squads, he was among the top 10 in the majors in BABIP among pitchers with more than 100 IP, he's not much for ground-ball outs, and he's going up against a lineup rightly famed for its capacity to render pitchers into their component parts.
The more I look, the more I'm thinking this is the game the Yankees explode for a big night at the plate, while Burnett leaves after a creditable five or six innings. The peril for the Yankees will come between that exit and the eighth inning, but they should have the benefit of a big lead. It may make for lousy television in Texas, but I'm beginning to believe in a Yankees rout in tonight's contest.