Burnett's gem all Yanks need in Queens
Losing no-hitter in sixth, righty overwhelms depleted Mets
NEW YORK -- The no-hitter A.J. Burnett keeps holstered in his list of career achievements is not one he is particularly proud of, with his nine walks that day having opened him up to plenty of snide clubhouse remarks over the years.
Since that 2003 success, Burnett has searched for another to add to his mantle, and he gave it a strong bid on Saturday. Burnett held the Mets hitless into the sixth inning and allowed just one hit over seven dominant frames, striking out a season-high 10 batters as the Yankees posted a 5-0 victory at Citi Field.
Stifling the Mets with a high-octane fastball and quality curveball, Burnett said he began thinking about history as early as the fourth inning. His hopes were buoyed in the fifth by Melky Cabrera, who raced into the left-center-field gap to flag Daniel Murphy's deep drive before crashing into the padded fence.
"That's when you start thinking it might happen, even when you're on the field," said Burnett, who pumped both arms in the air to celebrate Cabrera's running grab. "To have guys out there running around and diving everywhere makes you go harder. That's the big thing about this team -- these guys play hard all the time."
"I knew he was going to be throwing a good game because he has good stuff, so I was going to be going all-out on that ball, and that's what I did," Cabrera said through an interpreter.
The no-hit bid finally met its end in the sixth when Alex Cora led off by lining a fat curveball into center field. It was the infielder's first hit against Burnett in 22 career at-bats, and Burnett wasn't shocked.
"That was one of those pitches that as soon as I let it go, I saw him hitting it," Burnett said. "Before he even hit it, I knew it was going to be a base hit."
Despite that disappointment, the Yankees were offered a tantalizing back-to-back glimpse of their combined $243.5 million investment, as Burnett mastered the Mets one night after CC Sabathia held them to one run on three hits in seven innings.
"You could say I was inspired, definitely," Burnett said. "I thought about his game all last night and I've told him a handful of times during the season, 'I can't wait to throw behind you, big man.' I just wanted to keep that same tone."
"It is what you imagine," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You can't expect them to give up three hits one night and one the next night -- every night. But we do expect them to pitch at a very high level, and that's what they've done in this series."
Jorge Posada hit a three-run homer to supplement Nick Swisher's earlier solo shot, toppling starter Tim Redding as the Yankees defeated their crosstown rivals for the fourth time in five contests this season and clinched the season series.
"We made him work," Girardi said. "I think our guys had a pretty good idea of what he was going to try to do to them. It looked like he made some mistakes, and our guys didn't miss them."
Swisher connected in the third inning for his 14th home run, a rare Citi Field opposite-field blast to left-center. The Yankees extended the lead in the sixth off Redding, as Mark Teixeira drilled a one-out double to deep center field and Alex Rodriguez followed with a run-scoring single up the middle.
"It's a pretty good team over there," Cora said, "and when the third baseman is hitting, it's a great team."
Robinson Cano belted a gift double that Gary Sheffield did not pursue into the left-field corner, and after a mound visit, Posada clubbed a three-run shot to left-center field. That homer chased Redding, who was charged with five runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
"We're simplifying things and having a plan when we come to the plate," Posada said. "Seeing what they're trying to do against us and getting good pitches to hit later in the game -- that game plan is paying off."
It was plenty of support for Burnett, who has rebounded from a poor June 9 start at Boston to limit opponents to one earned run on 10 hits through his past 20 1/3 innings, including two starts against the Mets.
"It comes down to pitching ahead and trusting my stuff," Burnett said. "Obviously, you want to pitch a little more ahead than I did tonight, but I don't need to be fine and paint on the corner. I just need to stay in my lanes and let the fastball get ahead to put them away as fast as I can."
Burnett was consoled by Girardi after the Cora single with this information -- the Yankees wanted him to go no higher than 115 pitches anyway, and thanks to a rapidly rising pitch count, the right-hander wouldn't have had a chance to finish off a potential no-hitter.
With Brian Bruney and Dave Robertson each firing a scoreless inning to close it out, Burnett would have no problem settling for the consolation prize -- the Yankees' fourth straight road victory and their second successive win over the Mets, having outscored them, 14-1, and out-hit them, 22-4, through the first two games of the weekend series.
"We're clicking on all cylinders," Burnett said. "We've got the offense swinging the bats, and the starters and bullpen are doing their job. When we click like that, it's definitely fun to watch and fun to be a part of."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.