New York Yankees Burnett pitches to the Detroit Tigers during the first inning of Game 4 in their MLB  American League Division Series baseball playoffs in Detroit

A.J. Burnett steps up against Tigers as Yankees force fifth game

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Craig did his best to talk everybody off the ledge this morning in regard to A.J. Burnett, but even the most optimistic among us had absolutely no idea what pitcher we were going to see tonight against the Tigers. Now that the dust has settled, it fair to say that the enigmatic right-hander exceeded all expectations.

Burnett allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings while the offense provided plenty of support as the Yankees topped the Tigers 10-1 to force a deciding fifth game in the ALDS.

Burnett was good enough, throwing 49 out of 81 pitches for strikes while striking out three and walking four. He induced 10 ground ball outs. The first inning was almost a complete disaster, as he walked Victor Martinez to load the bases with two outs, but Curtis Granderson was able to make a leaping catch on a fly ball off the bat of Don Kelly to end the threat.

This was actually a 4-1 game before the Yankees exploded for six runs on seven hits off four relievers in the top of the eighth inning. Alex Rodriguez kicked off the rally with a single, snapping an 0-for-12 mini-slump in the series. The game took on a decidedly different tone from that point forward.

With the series now tied 2-2, the teams will play a deciding fifth game Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Ivan Nova will be on the mound for the Yankees while Doug Fister pitches for the Tigers.

Notes

– The last time Burnett allowed one earned run or less in a start? June 13.

– Victor Martinez provided the only offense of the night for the Tigers, slugging a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. It was the first hit allowed by Burnett.

– While Curtis Granderson made a nice recovery to catch a ball he misjudged in the first inning, his diving catch to end the bottom of the sixth inning was even better. He skidded for about five feet on the Comerica Park grass after making the sprawling grab. The AL MVP candidate also had an RBI double in the victory.

– Rick Porcello allowed four runs on five hits while walking one and striking out five. He was hurt by leaving pitches up in the strike zone, which explains why he induced seven ground balls compared to seven fly balls. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 51.9 percent career ground ball rate.

– Wilson Betemit went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in the loss. Including the postseason, he has struck out in 39.8 percent of his at-bats since joining the Tigers.

– Jesus Montero had an RBI single in the six-run eighth inning and added another single in the ninth. The only other Yankees to get a postseason hit at 21 years old or younger? Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. No pressure, kid.

– 11 of the Yankees’ 13 hits tonight were singles.

– And we’ll leave you with this from our friend Joe Sheehan of SI.com: The Yankees haven’t won a deciding game (G5/G7) since the Aaron Boone game in 2003.

Dodgers sign Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million deal

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Rich Hill #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs in game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.

Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.

Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.

UPDATE: Giants agree to a deal with Mark Melancon

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Mark Melancon #43 of the Washington Nationals reacts after the final out as the Nationals defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-3 in game three of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 10, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.

12:15 PMKen Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.

Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.

The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.

What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.

Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.