Make no mistake: A.J. Burnett is starting Game 4 no matter what

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A lot of nervous Yankees fans have been assuming — or hoping, maybe — that if the Yankees find themselves down 2-1 to the Rangers after tonight that Joe Girardi would pitch CC Sabathia on short rest for Game 4. Not so, says Joe:

Joe Girardi made it clear yesterday that A.J. Burnett would get the ball tomorrow night, regardless of what happens in tonight’s ALCS Game 3. And while the erratic righty has done nothing to instill confidence during his miserable second half, both Girardi and GM Brian Cashman said they think he will come through.

“I believe in A.J.,” Cashman said during the team’s workout yesterday at Yankee Stadium.

The issue, Dan Martin of the Post reports, is Phil Hughes who, if Burnett is to be avoided in this series, would have to go on short rest too and that’s just not in the cards.

And it’s probably smart to go with Burnett anyway, because even if CC Sabathia has done well on short rest in the past, on the whole, using starters like that generally leads to worse production from said starters. Maybe Sabathia was just born to be a 1970s starter and could keep it up forever, but it’s hard to ask the Yankees to bet on that, isn’t it? Even if betting on Burnett feels less safe at the moment?

We know this much at least: Cliff Lee stands a chance to earn more money while he’s sitting on the bench for Game 4 than he does on the mound in Game 3. Because if Burnett crashes and burns the Yankees are going to feel that much more pressure to go out and get another pitcher for next season.

Albert Pujols is eighth on the all-time home run list

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Albert Pujols kicked things off for the Angels in dramatic fashion on Friday night, cranking a two-RBI home run off of the Orioles’ Jeremy Hellickson to give the club an early lead in the first inning. The 350-footer was his 18th home run of the year and No. 609 in his 17-season career, tying Sammy Sosa on the all-time home run list for eighth overall and most home runs hit by a player born outside of the United States.

With the home run, Pujols sits just three homers shy of tying Jim Thome’s 612-home run record for seventh on the all-time list. That figures to be the last major milestone still ahead of the designated hitter this season, with Ken Griffey Jr.’s 630-home run mark still a distant 21 blasts away.

The Angels, meanwhile, ran with Pujols’ lead, collecting home runs from Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart and Mike Trout. It wasn’t quite enough to quash the Orioles, however, who surged to a 9-7 finale after Manny Machado went 3-for-5 with three home runs and struck a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Nationals place Max Scherzer on 10-day disabled list with neck inflammation

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The Nationals placed right-hander Max Scherzer on the 10-day disabled list with left neck inflammation, the team announced Friday. Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start against the Padres and replaced by left-hander Matt Grace, though an official roster move has yet to be made to fill his spot on the roster. The assignment is retroactive to August 15.

Scherzer experienced a similar pain on the right side of his neck at the start of the month, though this is the first official stint he’ll serve on the disabled list in 2017. While comments from club manager Dusty Baker suggest that the injury wasn’t caused by any particular trauma, it seems likely that the ace right-hander will be sidelined for at least one more start.

It’s a terrible time to lose a star pitcher, especially with the Nationals positioned to make a deep run in the postseason, but their 14-game cushion in the NL East should buy them some time while Scherzer’s on the mend. Prior to his bout of inflammation, the 33-year-old looked remarkably healthy this season. He pitched through his fifth consecutive All-Star campaign and currently boasts a 12-5 record in 24 starts, complete with a 2.25 ERA (good for second-best among qualified starters), 2.2 BB/9 and 12.3 SO/9 in 160 1/3 innings.