Despite Burnett's effort, Yankees fall
Right-hander fans 12, but start is blemished by long ball
NEW YORK -- A.J. Burnett showcased his sharpest arsenal and command of the season, unloading an impressive array of pitches toward home plate and achieving almost everything he wanted. And it wasn't good enough.
Despite a season-high 12 strikeouts, Burnett was punished for one mistake on Thursday -- a three-run Ian Kinsler home run -- as he departed on the wrong side of the Yankees' 7-2 loss to the Rangers at Yankee Stadium.
"It's irrelevant," Burnett said. "I made a mistake that coughed up the lead for us, and one mistake hurt me all game. It doesn't matter how my stuff was if we don't come out on top."
The fourth inning ensured Burnett would remain winless in his past six starts, though he opened the afternoon by retiring the first 11 Rangers -- seven via punchout -- before issuing a two-out walk to Josh Hamilton, coming after a close 2-2 pitch that wasn't called.
A free pass to Nelson Cruz followed and, after a mound visit, Burnett grooved a fastball that Kinsler slugged over the left-field wall for a three-run homer. That was the sum total of the Rangers' production against Burnett, who allowed only two hits while walking three.
"He made one mistake the whole day, and it's unfortunate that one mistake costs you the whole ballgame," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He was dominant today. We didn't score a lot of runs, and it's unfortunate."
One start after Burnett clashed with catcher Jorge Posada at Fenway Park over pitch selection in a 14-1 shellacking, the right-hander said his preparation was better in this effort -- a small consolation, perhaps, but an encouraging sign nevertheless.
"I can take the fact that I was better upstairs than I have been the past couple of starts," Burnett said. "I didn't let a lot of things affect me today and I went one pitch at a time. You can see the difference when I'm mentally sound out there."
Johnny Damon said that Burnett's effort Thursday played host to the best stuff he has possessed so far as a Yankee. Kinsler agreed that his assignment was no day in the park.
"Burnett is tough when he's running that fastball up there, 96 [mph], his curveball is being thrown for strikes and he's throwing that sharp slider off the plate," Kinsler said. "It's tough facing a guy like that. You've got to battle. But the two guys in front of me were able to work walks and give me a chance. I was lucky enough to run into a heater."
The Yankees weren't altogether as impressed with the performance of Rangers right-hander Dustin Nippert, who would best be described as effectively wild.
Nippert walked seven batters in 3 2/3 innings but managed to hold New York to two runs before turning the pitching over to the Texas bullpen.
"He walked some guys, but his ball was moving a lot, but he got some big outs when he needed them," Derek Jeter said.
The Yankees touched Nippert in the first inning as Damon walked, stole second and scored on Mark Teixeira's single to center field. Nippert then walked two but stranded the bases loaded as Robinson Cano lined out to left.
"Anytime you don't score with runners in scoring position, you wish you did," Girardi said. "That's going to happen. Robbie hits that ball and it looks like we're going to get three or four runs. You can't hit a ball any better than he hit it. It just wasn't meant to be."
After Nippert issued the final two of his free passes, Teixeira trimmed the deficit to one run with a sharp single to right, chasing Jeter home with New York's second run.
But the rally short-circuited as Alex Rodriguez tapped back to the mound against reliever Jason Grilli, stranding the tying run at third base and ultimately setting the tone for a disappointing day.
"We definitely felt like we let one get away from us," Rodriguez said. "We really put together some good at-bats early on and got his pitch count way up. We couldn't deliver the final blow. We had opportunities probably the first four innings, up and down."
With the Yankees ultimately leaving 12 men on base as Grilli, C.J. Wilson and Frank Francisco combined to hold them scoreless, the Rangers padded their lead in the seventh inning against left-hander Phil Coke.
David Murphy opened the inning with a ground-rule double down the right-field line and Taylor Teagarden pushed a bunt to the left side of the infield to move the runner along.
Rodriguez was in position and called for the play, but Coke bolted off the mound and retrieved the ball, making an off-balance throw to first base that was too late to get Teagarden.
Chris Davis followed with a three-run homer to right, his 16th, as Coke now has a 8.10 ERA in 17 appearances since the All-Star break. Kinsler put the final touches on a successful afternoon in the eighth by belting a solo shot, his 28th, off Dave Robertson.
Girardi said that the play between Coke and Rodriguez would require further attention before the Yankees get back on the field. Like the rest of the afternoon, it would have to be chalked up to a learning experience.
"They have to communicate," Girardi said. "That's something that we'll talk about and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.