For most of the last two seasons, setup man Jared Burton has been one of the few players the Minnesota Twins have been able to rely on to deliver night in and night out.
That no longer appears to be the case.
Burton faltered again with a lead in the eighth inning, giving up three runs on three hits and getting just one out in Minnesota’s 10-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Monday night.
”He’s had a couple scuffles here,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ”We desperately need him. He’s been very good for us and we desperately need him to get going again.”
Burton had been a revelation after signing with the Twins before last season, overcoming shoulder problems that derailed his career in Cincinnati to become one of the American League’s top setup men. But after giving up a homer in a loss to Kansas City on Sunday, he fell apart against the Yankees’ struggling offense.
He entered the game with a 4-3 lead and looking to get the ball to superb closer Glen Perkins. But he gave up a leadoff double to Robinson Cano; made a poor throw on a bunt from Ichiro Suzuki that pulled Justin Morneau off first base; then threw away a pickoff attempt that allowed the tying run to score and moved Ichiro to third base. Zoilo Almonte followed with the go-ahead single past a drawn-in infield, and the Yankees scored four times in the ninth to snap a five-game losing streak.
”I think the game really sped up on him, and that’s what happens when you get out there and you’re trying to figure out what’s going wrong,” Gardenhire said.
Burton fell to 1-6, and his performance spoiled a nice bounce-back night from starter Scott Diamond, who struck out five and allowed two earned runs on seven hits in 6 2-3 innings.
Ryan Doumit had two hits and two RBIs and Chris Parmelee homered for the Twins, playing without slugger Josh Willingham because of a sore left knee.
Cano homered twice and drove in three runs, Almonte had three hits and two RBIs, and Andy Pettitte broke Whitey Ford’s club record for career strikeouts for the Yankees.
Pettitte allowed four runs and six hits in five innings. Joba Chamberlain (1-0) pitched an inning of scoreless relief for the win.
The Twins got to Pettitte early. He needed 41 pitches to get through the first inning. He gave up a two-run single to Doumit and allowed another run to score when he slipped to the ground while trying to field a comebacker from Oswaldo Arcia. Pettitte threw the ball over first baseman Lyle Overbay’s head, allowing Doumit to score from second base for a 3-1 lead.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi had Preston Claiborne warming in the bullpen in the first. But Pettitte settled down after that rocky inning, breezing through the next four to keep his team in the game.
”You hope that the hard work that they’ve been putting in starts to pay off,” Girardi said. ”Maybe this is the start of something.”
Cano’s second homer of the night, a two-run shot to left field, tied the score 3-3 in the third, and Pettitte made some more history in the fifth. He began the night needing two strikeouts to pass Ford for the Yankees record. After fanning Clete Thomas in the third inning, Pettitte broke the record by getting Morneau swinging in the fifth for his 1,958th career strikeout.
Diamond staggered into the start having surrendered 17 earned runs in his last four starts, with right-hander Mike Pelfrey waiting in the wings on a rehab assignment. He was shaky in the first three innings, giving up a 435-foot shot to Cano in the first inning and another two-run homer to him in the third.
But he allowed just two hits in his final 3 2-3 innings on the mound in an encouraging step forward.
”I’m happy with the improvement personally, but we lost,” Diamond said. ”It’s frustrating just the way it all unraveled a little bit. Hopefully we can make an adjustment and come back tomorrow and be more competitive in the series.”
NOTES: Twins C Joe Mauer was given the day off after showing up to the ballpark not feeling well. He struck out in a pinch-hit appearance in the eighth. … Pelfrey gave up two runs and two hits with six strikeouts in six innings during a rehab outing for Class-A Cedar Rapids. … Twins GM Terry Ryan on Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who has tormented the Twins over the years and is retiring after this season: ”God bless that man. He’s been a tremendous closer. But it’s not going to break my heart to see him go off into the sunset.”