05/12/09 11:10 PM ET
Burnett outdueled by Halladay
Righty solid until eighth, but Yanks have hard time vs. ace
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
The biggest distraction was someone who Burnett couldn't do anything about. Jays ace Roy Halladay had the Yankees' number and more, firing a five-hitter to lead his team to a 5-1 victory over his former clubhouse buddy and pupil.
"I tried to block it out once I got out there," Burnett said. "But we all know who's pitching and what he's going to do. I tried my best not to worry about him and just do what I can for myself."
While Johnny Damon opined that Burnett's reception was even tougher to handle than what Fenway Park crowds gave him as a Yankee in 2006, Burnett had joked that Halladay probably didn't even notice who he was going up against.
And Halladay did treat the Yankees just like any other annoyance, limiting them to five hits in a dominant effort. Scott Rolen drove in three runs and Aaron Hill homered against Burnett, who allowed five runs in his return to Toronto after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract with New York.
"Anytime you opt out of a contract like that and go somewhere else, you're going to get that," Burnett said. "I expected that and I expected Doc to do what Doc did. I made two mistakes and he didn't make any. It's basically one inning and a couple of walks killed me."
The bar was set high by Halladay. He faced the minimum through six innings, allowing only a first-inning single to Damon, who was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double on a strong throw from left fielder Travis Snider.
Damon said television replays showed he was safe under the tag, and he had no regrets about trying to push the envelope early against Halladay, who threw his 41st career complete game and first since last Sept. 25 vs. the Yankees.
"His stuff breaks a foot and a half. It's real good," Damon said. "He keeps bearing it in and occasionally he'll throw it away. But we've got to be able to look past that. We know he's a good pitcher going in. We've got to grind every single at-bat against a guy like that. The guy is too good."
No Yankee would reach base again until the seventh, when Damon smacked a one-out double down the right-field line -- 17 straight batters retired by Halladay, who walked none and struck out five.
"Your approach is to try to get a good pitch to hit, and, if he gives you one, don't miss it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The problem is, he doesn't make a lot of mistakes."
Halladay -- whom Burnett credits as one of the most influential people in his career over their three years as Toronto teammates -- said that Burnett's re-appearance made for a lively setting, but didn't necessarily drive him.
"As a pitcher, you kind of have to keep your focus on the lineup you're facing and not so much who's pitching on the other side," Halladay said. "It was definitely a great atmosphere to pitch in. There was a lot of excitement out there and that makes it more fun."
Alex Rodriguez cashed in the lone Yankees run with a single to left past the dive of shortstop Marco Scutaro. It was A-Rod's second hit of the year after returning from right hip surgery, and first since belting a three-run homer on his first swing of the season Friday at Baltimore.
The Yankees didn't exactly have their "A" lineup -- Hideki Matsui left the game after one at-bat with tightness in his right hamstring and is listed as day to day. Derek Jeter also did not play for the first time this season, mending a sore right oblique.
Booed loudly by a crowd of 43,737 -- many of them late-arriving walkups -- Burnett did not have one of the typical big-strikeout performances he had become known for in three seasons at Rogers Centre, fanning only three as the fans grew more boisterous late.
"It felt like what A.J. had to go through was definitely worse than what I had to go through in Boston," Damon said. "That also goes to show you how good of a pitcher he is. Everybody in the stadium was on him, and that means he's pretty good. If you have people boo you, I would say you've made it."
Charged with seven hits over 7 2/3 innings -- with four walks -- Burnett held the Blue Jays hitless until the fourth inning. Alex Rios started that frame with a double, and Vernon Wells and Adam Lind both walked to load the bases.
Rolen smacked a bouncing ball down the third-base line, bringing in two runs on a ball that Burnett said "got too much plate," and Rod Barajas added a sacrifice fly to put Toronto up, 3-0.
"I know I'm better than that, and that's what's killing me," Burnett said. "I've got to make the adjustment. Every pitch counts, and I went about my business the same way. I lost it there and didn't get it back soon enough."
Hill belted a solo homer off Burnett in the eighth before Rolen came through with an RBI single to center, chasing Burnett to loud booing.
"That stuff kind of drives me," Burnett said. "I like going into places where my back is against the wall. That brings out the warrior. The results weren't there, and I'm ticked off about that. But I battled out there."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.