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Yanks can’t overcome Burnett’s bad night

August 20, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — As he walked off the mound following another rough outing Saturday, right-hander A.J. Burnett was clearly upset about being taken out. So upset, in fact, that he appeared to have some choice words for Yankees manager Joe Girardi as he walked away.

According to Burnett and Girardi, though, what appeared to happen was not what actually occurred when Girardi removed Burnett after only five outs in the Yankees’ 9-4 loss to the Twins.

Burnett acknowledged that he did say something as he walked away, but it was directed to catcher Russell Martin.

And Girardi said he went into the tunnel after Burnett did in order to take a second look at Burnett’s last pitch to Joe Mauer. Burnett said his remark had to do with that pitch as well.

“Everyone always seems to want to blow up about A.J.,” Girardi said. “Nothing happened between me and A.J. I went and looked at the pitch. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of people looking for something between me and A.J.”

Said Burnett: “I told [Girardi], ‘Not you.’ Russ came out, he said, ‘That’s a strike.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s …’ No, I was not talking to Joe, absolutely not. No matter how mad I get, that guy’s taken my back every day I’ve been here.”

The situation between Burnett and Girardi almost overshadowed the fact that Burnett lasted just 1 2/3 innings on the night, giving up seven runs on five hits and three walks with a strikeout.

It was Burnett’s shortest start since he threw just one inning on June 30, 2004, at Atlanta while a member of the Marlins. His 61 pitches thrown also were his fewest since Sept. 27, 2010, at Toronto, when he tossed 48.

Burnett’s outing was the shortest for a Yankees starter since Tim Redding went just one inning on July 15, 2005, at Boston, and the shortest for the Yankees against the Twins since Mike Witt recorded only one out on June 13, 1991.

“Yeah, it’s upsetting, it’s frustrating,” Burnett said. “You want to come out and set the tone as a starter. Obviously, I didn’t do that, but I will be better. I know that.”

It started with Burnett giving up two runs on a pair of doubles in the first inning, and it only got worse from there for the Yankees. Twins third baseman Danny Valencia homered to lead off a five-run second inning that also featured a double, two singles and four walks.

After issuing his third walk of the inning, Burnett was relieved by Luis Ayala. While he had managed a win in his last start, Burnett has given up 61 hits and 38 earned runs in 49 1/3 innings over his last nine starts, for a 1-3 record and 6.93 ERA

“We need this guy to pitch, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “We need him to pitch like he’s capable of pitching. He has struggled, his last few starts he has struggled. We’ve got to get him back on track.”

It was 4-0 when Burnett left the game, but a walk and a single allowed by Ayala resulted in three Twins runs. Ayala also pitched the third inning, finishing with two hits and one walk allowed over 1 1/3 innings pitched.

Eduardo Nunez scored the Yankees’ first run of the game in the third inning, doubling with one out and later coming around to score on a single and a throwing error. Curtis Granderson drove in Brett Gardner for another in the eighth, his 97th RBI of the season, and Francisco Cervelli followed with a single to drive in Jorge Posada.

Andruw Jones hit his ninth homer of the season with one out in the ninth inning to close out the Yankees’ scoring.

Lefty Aaron Laffey made his Yankees debut in the fourth, and he tossed three innings while allowing two runs on five hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.

Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano struggled in the third inning, but was otherwise in control most of the night. He went seven innings, allowing just one unearned run on three hits and three walks. Liriano also struck out six batters.

For Liriano, it was his first career win against the Yankees, as the Twins snapped their three-game losing streak against New York. Their nine runs were the most the Twins have scored against the Yankees since June 5, 2005.

“It’s kind of a long, overdue feeling,” Valencia said of the win. “We’ve played these guys tough, but at the same time we’ve come up empty-handed a bunch. So it’s nice to come out and win, and win kind of big.

“The Yankees score a lot of runs, you have to score a bunch of runs to beat them.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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