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The Early Lead
Posted at 12:51 PM ET, 10/05/2011

A.J. Burnett is surprise hero, with help from Curtis Granderson, as Yankees force Game 5


Curtis Granderson has Jhonny Peralta’s sixth-inning fly ball in his glove. (Duane Burleson / AP)
A.J. Burnett and Curtis Granderson, Messers. October? Mystique and aura?

How about just “the guys who saved the New York Yankees from elimination in Game 4 of their division series against Detroit?”

Granderson made two key center-field catches that prevented at least four runs and Burnett — A.J. Burnett! — won in a bit of a miracle in Michigan.

“He saved the season,” Alex Rodriguez, to whom the nickname Mr. October has never adhered, said of Granderson, bidding to step into the DiMaggio/Mantle/Bernie tradition, as ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor writes. “Not once, but twice.”


Burnett departs in the sixth inning. (MIKE CASSESE / Reuters)
In the process, he rescued Burnett according to John Harper of the New York Daily News. And, what’s worse, Detroit fans can’t hate him for it. As a result, “Burnett” — the pitcher who has been chronically unable to deliver on a $82.5 million contract — and “hero” were mentioned in the same breath. Burnett, with a 5.15 ERA this year, admitted he was overthrowing early, loading the bases on walks in the first inning.

“I can’t tell you I was going to take him out. I can’t tell you I was going to leave him in,” Manager Joe Girardi said, “but I had the [bullpen] up in case that first inning got away from us a little bit.”

Burnett — featured on a New York Post back page with the headline “Would you trust your season to this man?” — he settled down and lasted 5 2/3 innings.

“A.J. deserves all the credit,” shortstop Derek Jeter said, differing a bit from A-Rod in the distribution of credit in the immediate aftermath. “He shut down a tough team over there. He’s the reason we get an opportunity to play on Thursday.”

In the Bronx.

“We don’t win tonight without defense,” Burnett said. “As well as we swung the bat and as well as we made pitches tonight, our defense was huge.”

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By  |  12:51 PM ET, 10/05/2011

 
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