A.J. Burnett was a little late for his interview room appearance at Yankee Stadium on Monday. As if Yankees fans aren't scared enough, the pitcher lost track of time at a Halloween store shopping for his kids.
Burnett, whose curveball has lacked bite, picked up some vampire fangs. He also bought zombie hands for his children and himself.
As for Game 4 of the AL championship series against the Texas Rangers, Burnett is approaching the start with closed ears.
Burnett will be making his first appearance since Oct. 2 after going 1-7 from Aug. 1 on as he struggled to throw curves for strikes. He knows many Yankees fans think the team should skip his turn and bring back ace CC Sabathia on three days' rest against the Texas Rangers, whose 8-0 rout gave them a 2-1 series lead.
"I hear it everywhere, but I'm not really paying attention to it," Burnett said. "I know a lot of things have been written. I don't read a lot I don't dig into it too much."
Burnett was 1-1 in five postseason starts for the Yankees last year, beating Philadelphia in Game 2 of the World Series and losing to the Phillies on short rest in Game 5.
"I'm going to feed off what I did last year," he said. "I told a few people, my seasons have been similar. The only difference is that I have three or four good games toward the end last year where everybody is more confident."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wouldn't say whether regular catcher Jorge Posada would start Game 4 or be replaced by backup Francisco Cervelli. Burnett was 2-3 with a 7.28 ERA when Posada was the starting catcher this year and 7-10 with a 4.66 ERA when Cervelli was the starter, STATS LLC said.
"I have no worries Jorge can handle me," Burnett said.
MANAGERIAL LOYALTY: When Charlie Manuel considers a lineup change in the heart of October, or any time for that matter, the Phillies manager tries to put himself in the player's shoes.
He's not one to take somebody out just based on a couple of tough games or an uncharacteristic blunder. Especially when it's a veteran player who played a key role in getting Philadelphia this far.
Take Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins. Neither standout has done much with the bat so far in the Phillies' latest postseason run. In fact, Ibanez is hitless in seven at-bats through the first two games against San Francisco. But Manuel isn't ready to make a quick judgment and a change.
"Attitude and chemistry is definitely what counts," Manuel said in San Francisco as his team prepared for Tuesday afternoon's NLCS Game 3 with the Giants. "But if I'm a player and I've played every day and I've had a real good year and my manager set me on the bench, I'd be madder than (heck). Really. I mean, I'll tell you."
In Manuel's job, patience with players can pay dividends. He has to believe his guys will come around and they just need time to work themselves out of a prolonged funk.
Rollins is 3 for 18 in his five postseason games of 2010.
"If Jimmy is going bad or something, why do I stick with him? Because I'm supposed to stick with him, because that's the game," Manuel said. "That's who helped us get there. I mean if you stop and think about those things, why should you go away from somebody that helped you get to a point?"
MOMMY!: Texas pitcher Tommy Hunter was expecting a loud crowd at Yankee Stadium for Game 3 of the AL championship series.
"Gets blood going. Gets adrenaline going — especially when you see people waving flags and stuff. Gives you goosebumps," he said.
Hunter will be making his second postseason start following a loss to Tampa Bay in Game 4 of the first round. He doesn't think the crowd will get to him.
"I had Mom screaming at me when I was 12," he said. "That's probably more intimidating than people I don't know."
THREE'S A CHARM: All the hype about the importance of winning Game 3 is lost on Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
The Yankees and Rangers were tied a game apiece in the best-of-seven series heading into Game 3, making it the 20th time in 41 American League championship series that the teams were tied after the first two games. In 14 of those series, the team that took a 2-1 lead wound up winning the series.
"I've heard managers talk about the importance of Game 3," Girardi said. "You know, it's a five-game series, and we have got three of them at home. You'd like to start off by winning the first one at home."
The five teams that won Game 3 and lost the series were the Royals (1977), Angels (1986), Mariners (1995), Indians (1998) and Indians again (2007). The Yankees beat the Royals and 1998 Indians after falling behind.
MISTAKES WILL HAPPEN: Texas manager Ron Washington anticipates there will be times his team will run into trouble by being too eager.
"If you are going to talk aggressiveness, there will be mistakes," he said. "If you're going to talk tentative, you'd better have some guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark and hit your three-run bombs.
"We have some guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, but that's not our game. Our game is whatever the day presents. If that means we have to run the bases to do something, we are going to do it. If that means we have to bunt to do something, we are going to do it," he said.
IT RATES: The first two games of the NL championship series averaged a 4.7 rating and 8 share on Fox, up 27 percent from the first two games of last year's NLCS between Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Dodgers, which averaged a 3.7/7 on the TBS cable network. The first two games were up 15 percent from the 2008 NLCS between the Phillies and Dodgers, which had a 4.1/8 on Fox.