In just his second game as a Yankee, A.J. Burnett looked like he was planning on carving himself a niche in the team's long record book. He didn't allow a hit through six innings in Tampa, walking just one batter, and looked completely in control of the proceedings.
It was a good thing that he did, because the Yankee hitters weren't having much more luck against Rays starter Matt Garza and led just 2-0 entering the bottom of the seventh. Burnett stumbled, allowing three straight hits and giving the lead away, but escaped when Jose Molina picked Carlos Pena off first base to end the seventh. Garza was done at that point, and the Yankees bats finally woke up to give Burnett the support he needed to secure his second straight win.
Brett Gardner doubled to lead off the eighth, moved to third on a Derek Jeter single and scored on a Mark Teixeira sacrifice fly. Gardner doubled again in the ninth, with two on and two out, to drive in Robinson Cano. Jeter followed with a three-run homer, his first of the season, and the Yankees didn't even have to use Mariano Rivera to close out the victory in the ninth.
The late offense was nice, especially since it came from the scuffling Gardner and Jeter, but Burnett's start was even nicer. Coming off of Chien-Ming Wang's disaster on Monday, the Yankees needed to score a blow against the reigning champs of the American League. It may be only April, but the AL East race is going to be so tight and the teams are so good that anything too far below .500 head-to-head is going to hurt you.
Thanks to Burnett, the Yankees evened the series up at one. He struck out nine, dominating with a curveball-fastball mix that gave Tampa hitters fits, and cruised through eight innings without showing the slightest sign of fatigue. It was a big money start from a big money pitcher, which is just why Burnett's in New York.