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Hoping to clinch, Burnett up for Game 5

Hoping to clinch, Burnett up for Game 5

PHILADELPHIA -- All season long, A.J. Burnett has talked about how he feeds off CC Sabathia, how his goal is to match the Yankees' ace in every way he can.

So when Sabathia came back on short rest to help the Yankees win Game 4 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park, thus opening the door for Burnett to do the same in a potential World Series championship-clinching Game 5, the right-hander was not about to say no.

"Obviously, you do everything you can to help this team win," Burnett said. "If that means me taking the ball on short rest, then I'm taking the ball on short rest."

And so with a chance to win their 27th World Series title, the Yankees will proceed on Monday evening at 7:57 p.m. ET with their best available option.

"I've waited a long time for it, and I'm going to take it full stride," Burnett said. "I'm going to go out there with everything I've got and take nothing for granted. I've seen some crazy things this postseason."

The Phillies might have considered this crazy -- coming off a poor outing in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series in Anaheim, Burnett silenced his critics with seven innings of one-run ball against Pedro Martinez and the Phillies in Game 2 of the World Series.

Tale of the Tape: Game 5
2009 Regular Season
Overall: 33 GS, 13-9, 4.04 ERA, 195 K, 97 BB
Overall: 34 GS, 14-13, 3.22 ERA, 181 K, 43 BB
Key stat: 4th in AL with 10 HBP
Key stat: 7.40 K/BB ratio w/PHI
Postseason
2009: 4 GS, 1-0, 3.55 ERA
Career: 4 GS, 1-0, 3.55 ERA
2009: 4 GS, 3-0, 0.54 ERA
Career: 4 GS, 3-0, 0.54 ERA
At CITIZENS BANK PARK
2009: No starts Career: 6 G, 5 GS, 2-3, 5.04 ERA
2009: 5 GS, 3-2, 2.52 ERA
Career: 5 GS, 3-2, 2.52 ERA
Against this opponent
2009: 1 GS, 0-1, 7.50 ERA
Career: 18 G, 17 GS, 6-8, 4.51 ERA
2009: 2 GS, 1-1, 3.00 ERA
Career: 10 GS, 5-4, 4.28 ERA
Loves to face: Pedro Feliz, 2-for-18
Hates to face: Carlos Ruiz, 4-for-5
Loves to face: Johnny Damon, 3-for-26
Hates to face: Derek Jeter, 14-for-31
Game breakdown
Why he'll win:
In control of curveball
Why he'll win: On a roll
Pitcher beware: Still erratic
Pitcher beware: Has to end sometime
Bottom line: Can he shut PHI down again?
Bottom line:
Will he keep it going?

The atmosphere will be a bit different in Philadelphia, but Burnett, who has shown a remarkable aptitude for postseason baseball so far this autumn, is prepared for the challenge.

"Obviously, it's going to be a little different here," Burnett said. "But I'm going to go out the same. I'm not going to change anything. I want to go out and do what I did last start -- just try to attack."

Pitching Burnett in Game 5 will also allow the Yankees to bring back Andy Pettitte on short rest for a potential Game 6, rather than use Chad Gaudin in a starting role. Though Yankees manager Joe Girardi has not announced that he will do so, he did say that he trusts each of his top three starters on short rest.

"The key is how they feel," said Girardi, who delayed the Game 5 decision until he saw how Burnett's arm would respond to his seven innings in Game 2. "There's a lot of discussion and we curb their workload, and the rest has helped. That's why we're doing it."

There's reason to believe Burnett can thrive. In four career starts on short rest, the right-hander is a perfect 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA. His most recent effort under such conditions came with the Blue Jays last July, when he beat the Yankees in Toronto, striking out eight over 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball.

Memories of that start, more than anything, have given Burnett confidence that he can repeat the trick in November.

"Without sounding too confident, I liked it when I did it in the past," Burnett said. "It was midseason, obviously, and not this late in the season, but I felt great when I did it in the past. My body felt great. It just seems like it doesn't allow you to overdo it.

"There's something about going on three days' [rest] -- it's hard to overthrow, it's hard to overdo it. And like I said, I enjoyed when I did it. I loved it."

Burnett has now started 37 games in the regular season and postseason combined -- three more than his previous career high. His 232 1/3 combined innings are also the most he has thrown in a season.

But Burnett has shown no ill effects in October, producing a 1-0 record and 3.55 ERA over his first three postseason starts. Take out the first inning of Burnett's ALCS Game 5 start in Anaheim, and his ERA drops to 2.22.

"I expected to be healthy when I finished, and that's the way I am," Burnett said. "I feel good right now. Otherwise, I wouldn't take the ball on three days' [rest]. I feel good about it, and I'm looking forward to it."

Most recently, Burnett outdueled Martinez in Game 2 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, shining in the first Fall Classic game of his career.

The Yankees believe Burnett can do it again.

"When you're talking about being at this level and being at this time of year, the competitiveness in these guys is tremendous, and they want the ball," Girardi said. "They want to be out there. They want to help their club, and they want to do whatever it takes. So as far as the mentality of it, to me, that's usually not a concern."

"A pitcher like me has to go out with a little more emotion, just feed off their crowd as much as I can," Burnett said. "It's going to be tough, but I'm looking forward to it."

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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