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Burnett effective with pitches, not catcher

Burnett effective with pitches, not catcher

NEW YORK -- And so after all the talk, all the first-guessing and second-guessing and all the days of armchair managing, the verdict on catchers Jorge Posada and Jose Molina is ... inconclusive.

Starting due to his comfort level with A.J. Burnett, Molina helped guide his pitcher through six innings of one-run ball in Friday's American League Division Series Game 2, in a plotline that became buried beneath layers upon layers of late-inning dramatics that gave the Yankees a 4-3 win over the Twins in 11 innings. And Posada still took his hacks, pinch-hitting for Molina in the sixth and finishing 1-for-3 with a single.

"Now you guys have nothing to talk about," Molina cracked. "We're just having fun with it. Jorge and me, we love each other. We don't have a problem."

Division Series
Gm. 1NYY 7, MIN 2WrapVideo
Gm. 2NYY 4, MIN 3 (11)WrapVideo
Gm. 3NYY 4, MIN 1WrapVideo

In the days leading up to the game, Posada grew frosty in response to the news that Molina, who started behind the plate in each of Burnett's final six starts of the regular season, was to start Game 2 of the Division Series as well.

In 16 starts throwing to Posada this season, Burnett was 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA and a .270 opponents' batting average. In 11 outings with Molina, Burnett was 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA and .221 opponents' average.

All the while, Burnett insisted that his personal successes hinged upon his own ability, not upon his catcher. And that appeared to hold true on Friday, when Burnett flashed some of his best pure stuff of the season in keeping the Twins in check.

0-2 Division Series deficits
Only four teams have come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a Division Series, all of them from the American League.
Year Team Opponent
1995 Mariners Yankees
1999 Red Sox Indians
2001 Yankees A's
2003 Red Sox A's

His mid-90s fastball and sharp curveball -- not the man he was throwing them to -- led to six strikeouts over six innings. His inability to completely harness those pitches -- not the man in the dugout -- led to two walks and two hit batsmen. But the most important piece of Burnett's final line was the fact that he allowed just one run, keeping the Yankees within striking distance of the Twins on a night when opposing starter Nick Blackburn was sharp.

"One run on three hits in six innings -- I think that's more than a good outing," Molina said. "He gave me everything out there, and that's what you expect from a guy that a lot of people were talking about the last couple of days. That says a lot about A.J."

And despite all of the controversy surrounding his time on the bench, Posada wound up taking three at-bats, compared to just one for Molina. In the sixth, Posada flied out to center before striking out in the eighth and singling to spark what nearly became the game-winning rally in the 10th.

Even third-string backstop Francisco Cervelli, an afterthought in the Yankees' catcher controversy, spent an inning behind the plate.

By that time, Burnett had long since left the game, briefly dropping out of the spotlight after the first postseason start of his career. It was not until Burnett dashed onto the field and slammed one of his signature pies in the face of Mark Teixeira that the Yankee Stadium crowd had a chance to salute him, breaking out into a raucous cheer.

Moments earlier, Burnett had been sitting in the Yankees' clubhouse, watching the 11th inning of the game on television. Problem was, the broadcast was on a slight delay, so Burnett actually felt Yankee Stadium shaking before he saw Teixeira launch the game-winner out of the park.

After a brief embrace with Joba Chamberlain -- "grown men hugging" was how he put it -- Burnett sprinted out to the field, leaving thoughts of a catcher controversy far behind.

"They weren't lying," Burnett said. "This is the best place to play."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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