After the three-run blast by New York's third baseman landed in the left-field stands and cut Toronto's lead to one run, Burnett retook the mound and became the kind of pitcher Toronto needs him to be. He plowed through the Yankees' order for the remainder of his outing and led the Jays to a 7-3 win in front of a raucous crowd inside the Rogers Centre on Friday night.
"It's just such a good hitting team that it drains you mentally," said Burnett, who admitted he was a little too pumped up at the onset of the game. "You have to be so focused. You can't make a mistake."
After Rodriguez's third-inning homer, Burnett barely made any. His pitch count kept climbling at a rapid rate, but the right-hander continued to handcuff New York, allowing just two hits to the final 16 Yankees.
When Burnett's night came to an end in the eighth inning, he stepped off the mound and headed for Toronto's dugout. Before he made it to the chalk line, the crowd was on its feet, giving Burnett a standing ovation for dominating Toronto's American League East rival.
"I've faced him a few times and it just seems like the later in the game it gets, he gets stronger," Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "He showed that tonight. He settled down there in the later innings and starting locating really well. He's really unhittable when he's locating."
The performance was an example of why the Blue Jays (54-42) handed Burnett a five-year, $55 million deal in the offseason. The timing showed why Toronto wanted Burnett to be its No. 2 arm behind staff ace Roy Halladay, who helped the club defeat New York (55-39) on Thursday.
It was just the second time that Burnett (2-3), who spent more than two months on the disabled list earlier this year with right elbow issues, has followed Halladay in consecutive starts this season. In those four games, the Blue Jays are 4-0.
"Burnett was some kind of awesome," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "We were waiting for the time when we'd get everyone together. We didn't know what the results would be, but we felt good about it.
"'Doc' [Halladay] always pitches good -- that's a given," he added. "A.J. -- to get him back healthy -- he's doing what we expected and hoped for."
It would've been hard for the Blue Jays to expect a long outing from Burnett, considering the way his start began. Through the first three innings, the right-hander had thrown 65 pitches -- a total that seemed to indicate Burnett's night wouldn't last much longer.
"I knew [the pitch count] was high early," Burnett said with a laugh. "It couldn't go anywhere but up from there, but I got stronger as I went on. I felt like I could hit my spot and not overdo it. I had the curveball working when I needed it, and we mixed it up well enough where we got away with a lot of pitches."
After allowing the homer to Rodriguez, Burnett induced eight groundouts, three fly outs, and added three strikeouts. In his 7 1/3 innings, the righty fanned six Yankees, including center fielder Johnny Damon, who became Burnett's 800th strikeout victim when he was caught looking on a 95 mph fastball in the eighth inning.
"You just get in a rhythm," Burnett said. "I knew I had a lot of pitches early, but I wanted to stay out there as long as I could. I was geeked up early, throwing it pretty hard. I just tried to take a little off and hit the glove every time no matter what [Jays catcher Gregg Zaun] put down."
Burnett received all the run support he would need in the first inning, when the Blue Jays scored four runs -- thanks to consecutive two-run hits by Troy Glaus and Overbay off Yankees starter Jaret Wright (6-6). Glaus added a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the fourth inning and then belted his 25th home run in the eighth -- a solo shot off New York reliever Kris Wilson.
After striking out Damon in the eighth, Burnett's 121st pitch was sent into center field for a single by Derek Jeter. It marked the most pitches the Jays starter had thrown since he tallied 125 in six innings on July 6, 2005, when he was with the Marlins. That's when Gibbons decided to turn to reliever Scott Schoeneweis, who recorded five straight outs to finish off the Yankees in the eighth and ninth.
"On any given night, when he's on, he can dominate you," said Gibbons, referring to Burnett. "He's overpowering. He's settled in now, but to really feel a part of it, he needs some good outings.
"And hey, he did what we needed to have done tonight."
He didn't give in to the Yankees.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less