A.J. Burnett in an elimination game is scary, but it could be worse

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The first thing you’ll read in any story about tonight’s Yankees-Tigers game is that the Yankees are throwing out A.J. Burnett in an elimination game.  And yes, that is far from ideal given how unreliable Burnett has been since arriving in New York. He wouldn’t have gotten a start absent last Friday night’s rain, and a couple of less-than-disastrous outings in September aren’t really enough to instill confidence. Yankees fans can say they are hoping for a nice showing, but they won’t bet too much on the proposition.

But at the same time, let us not overlook the fact that Burnett isn’t the only shaky guy in tonight’s game.  The Tigers are running out Rick Porcello who, in the past two seasons, has himself been pretty awful, posting an ERA+ of 85 in 2010 and 86 this year, which is pretty A.J. Burnettian himself.  While Burnett can often run hot-and-cold in a single game (usually early and later, respectively) Porcello runs hot and cold by month, it seems, with his lackluster ERA the result of a couple of disaster months (June and August).

I guess the point is that given the anxiety A.J. Burnett has instilled in the Yankee Universe these past couple of years, yes, the talk of impending doom for tonight’s game is justified.  But let’s not pretend that it’s just the Yankees relying on a wobbly starter in a big playoff game. Porcello is no one’s idea of an ace, and the Yankees’ slumbering bats could very well get to him.  As such, it’s about the best circumstances under which one can run old A.J. out there.

All of that said, if you rock a pic like this in your Facebook profile or whatever today, you had best not be complaining if Burnett lays an egg tonight, OK?

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(pic via reader Mike W. on Facebook, though I have no idea who created it)

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.