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.

The Cards dealt Stephen Piscotty to the A’s, in part, so he could be near his ailing mother

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Last night we wrote about the rumored deal between the Cardinals and the Athletics for Stephen Piscotty. The deal is now official, with Piscotty going to Oakland for minor leaguers Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock.

Something else emerged about the deal today: a big reason why St. Louis traded Piscotty to Oakland as opposed to another team was so that he could be near his mother, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease last May. Piscotty and his family are from Pleasanton, California, about 35 miles from Oakland.

Here’s Cardinals GM John Mozeliak:

This was certainly a baseball trade — Piscotty became expendable for the Cardinals after they acquired Marcell Ozuna yesterday — but it was one which could’ve been made with any team with a couple of red or white chip prospects. That Mozeliak considered Piscotty’s personal situation in making the deal with the A’s is a credit to him and his staff.

The 26-year-old Piscotty hit .235 with nine homers and 39 RBIs in 107 games last season. He has hit .268 with 38 homers and 163 RBIs in 2+ major league seasons. He agreed to a six-year, $33.5 million contract extension last spring.

As for the prospects in return: Munoz, 22, hit .300 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs this year for Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. Schrock, 23, batted .321 with seven homers and 46 RBIs for Midland, and was a Texas League All-Star.