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With A.J. Burnett set to take mound, Yankees put on game face

Down a game to the Rangers, the Yankees are pinning their hopes for Game 4 on A.J. Burnett, one of the worst pitchers in the American League in the second half of the season. Why is that?

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New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett throws during a simulated game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Oct. 13.

Kathy Willens/AP

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The Yankees’ future in post-season play is now in the right hand of A.J. Burnett, after Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers spanked the "Bronx Bombers" 8-0 on Monday night in the third game of the American League Championship Series.

For the Yankees, that is a scary – almost a Halloween type of proposition – because Burnett has been one of the worst pitchers in the American League in the second half of the season.

He lost the last six of his regular season games and compiled a 5.83 earned run average – well above his past efforts. He is now greeted with boos when he walks to the mound in his home stadium.

Burnett says he is not paying attention to any of the adverse comments about his performance. “I don’t dig into it too much, but I do go off with everyday people that I meet at breakfast and lunch and stuff and it’s been nothing but positive towards me.”

So far, he’s getting warm and fuzzy thoughts from his manager, as well. “We all know what A.J. can dial up, and we believe in him,” says Joe Girardi, the Yankee manager, who reaffirmed on Monday night that Burnett would be pitching. But with the Yankees down two games to one in the American League Championship Series, Girardi is expected to temper his belief with a quick hook if Burnett gets into trouble.

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