After becoming one of the most reliably dominant relievers in baseball last season, Sean Burnett has struggled to recapture that form in 2011. His latest blemish came Monday, when he allowed the lead to slip away against the Phillies in the Phillies facing three left-handed batters. He walked Chase Utley, gave up a groundball single to Ryan Howard and a sac fly to Raul Ibanez.
At the end of the day, Burnett’s ERA had risen to 5.59. The most alarming fact about Burnett’s is a decrease in strikeouts – he has 10 in 19 1/3 innings after striking out 62 in 63 innings last year. He has also struggled with inherited runners, allowing nine of 17 to score. Last year, he inherited 49 runners and stranded all but 13.
“Do you have the answer?” Burnett said yesterday. “I don’t have the answer. I have to go out there and try to battle, forget about the day before. I have good outings, I have bad outings. There’s just no consistency right now. You can’t have that. It’s unfortunate and unacceptable. I hold myself to a higher standard than that, and I’m the first one to take blame on that one.”
Burnett said he could not pick one issue, calling his performance “flat-out terrible.” On Monday, he had some bad luck, as Howard’s single bounced in the inches-wide span between Michael Morse’s lunge and Danny Espinosa’s lunge. While Burnett allowed misfortune has played a role, he was hard on himself and his performance.
That attitude, in part, has made Manager Jim Riggleman want to stick with Burnett.
“He stood in front of you guys and said, ‘I didn’t get it done,’ ” Riggleman said today. “I admire that. This guy impresses me so much. He is all about the team – ‘I let the team down. That’s on me.’ He took it. That kind of character is going to be rewarded somewhere. I’m just really proud of him, the way he’s gone through this year.”