Two games so far, decided by two dominant pitching performances.
A.J. Burnett, the Yankees' erratic free agent acquisition, pitched the game of his life tonight, going seven strong innings, allowing just four hits, striking out nine and walking only two. He allowed just one run, on a smash RBI single off the glove of Alex Rodriguez, scoring Raul Ibanez from second base in the top of the second inning. The Phillies did a decent job making Burnett throw pitches in the early going, but as the game progressed, he became virtually unhittable. Burnett benefited from a wide plate, and the Phillies hitters failed to adjust -- in the later innings, Burnett dropped curveball after curveball on the outside corner, but the Phillies left-handed hitters failed to change their approach.
We got about all we could have hoped for from Pedro Martinez. The veteran righty went six-plus innings, striking out eight and allowing three runs, two on solo home runs from Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui, and a third run on a single by Jorge Posada off Chan Ho Park, scoring the inherited baserunner Brett Gardner. Good, but not quite good enough.
The game was not without controversy, with a pair of double-plays-that-weren't in consecutive half innings; in the bottom of the seventh, with runners on first and second, Johnny Damon lined a ball to Ryan Howard, who snagged the short-hop and threw to second. The ball was called a catch, and the throw to second resulted in a force of Melky Cabrera. In the top of the eighth, with runners on first and second, Chase Utley hit a ground ball to second base and, after forcing Shane Victorino at second, the relay throw failed to get Utley on time at first base. He was called out anyway. Even Steven?
Mariano Rivera pitched the 8th and 9th innings and looked mortal, surrendering a walk to Jimmy Rollins and a single to Victorino in the previously discussed 8th inning, and a two out double to Raul Ibanez in the 9th. But... too little, too late.
There was really no beating A.J. Burnett tonight. "Good A.J." showed up. "Good A.J." is one of the best pitchers in baseball, even if he looks like some kind of Boo Radley / extra from the classic The Hills Have Eyes hybrid ghoul.
They still split in New York. They've got Cole Hamels, who's pitched well at home this season, on Saturday night.