New York A.J. Burnett stood smiling in front of his locker Friday night, allowing himself the luxury of imaging what could have been if a wicked thunderstorm hadn’t curtailed his fine outing.
That’s the Burnett the Yankees hope to see on a more consistent basis.
The tempestuous right-hander bounced back from a horrible start cut short by a self-inflicted injury to pitch five scoreless innings, Robinson Cano hit a three-run double, and the New York Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals, 7-1.
“I just focused more on what I had to do in my job,” Burnett said. “When I do that I’m good.”
So good that he happily sat on the bench when played resumed after a 1-hour, 25-minute rain delay — a marked difference from his last outing. A week ago, he waited in his manager’s office to explain why he had lacerations on both hands.
“I felt like I was locked in. I still had a lot of energy,” he said. “I wasn’t going to sit around in here. I was going to go out and watch. You have to watch everything around here because you might miss something.”
The game was halted with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, when a deluge of rain made visibility difficult at Yankee Stadium. Spectacular lightning drew more “oohs” than each swing by Alex Rodriguez, who was 2-for-4 in his first game since hitting his 599th home run Thursday night.
Most of the 46,801 remained after the delay for the chance to see A-Rod go for 600.
As flashes sparkled and fans stood, Rodriguez walked and scored in the first, had an infield single in the third, struck out looking in the fifth, lined a single to left-center in the seventh and grounded to third base in the eighth. The last hit, a sharp drive, drew disappointed sighs.
“I thought his approach was very good,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I didn’t necessarily see him pressing tonight.”
During a visit to the mound before his at-bat in the seventh inning, home plate umpire Bill Miller gave Rodriguez a glimpse of the specially marked baseballs used for each of his times up.
He’ll get his next chance Saturday against Kyle Davies, the pitcher who gave up homer N0. 500 in August 2007.
The one milestone reached Friday night was by Jorge Posada. The Yankees catcher drove in his 1,000th run with an RBI double in the first. He had an RBI single in the seventh off Dusty Hughes.
“RBIs are special,” Posada said. “You want to be a run producer.”
The delay cut short the outings of Burnett and Royals starter Brian Bannister.
Burnett (8-8) was starting six days after he cut both hands on a plastic lineup-card holder when he slammed open double doors in the clubhouse out of frustration in the second inning against Tampa Bay. He gave up four runs in two-plus innings last Saturday. He had square Band-Aids on both hands, but he had little trouble with the Royals, baseball’s best hitting team by average — .282 coming in.
On Friday, Burnett allowed four hits and was helped by two double plays. One was routine. The other was started by Mark Teixeira’s nifty diving stop of Alex Gordon’s sharp grounder near first base. Teixeira stepped on the bag and threw to second where Derek Jeter tagged Wilson Betemit to end the fourth inning.
Burnett struck out three and walked one.
“He got a lot of grounball outs tonight, which is good,” Girardi said. “He was very efficient. Obviously we would’ve loved to let him go deeper in the game but we had a long rain delay.”
Burnett said he begged to go back out there for several minutes but understood the decision.
Victor Marte relieved Bannister (7-9), who gave up four runs in the first before settling over 4 2-3 innings. He gave up Brett Gardner’s two-run single in the sixth.
Chad Gaudin took over for Burnett and gave up an RBI double in three innings.
David DeJesus, who injured his thumb on the play that resulted in an inside-the-park home run for Jeter on Thursday night, will have surgery on Monday and be out at least 10 weeks. Gordon was called up from Triple-A Omaha, where he was converted from a third baseman to outfielder. He started in right field and made an error on his first try.
Gardner hit a line drive that bounced off the fence, and Gordon played the carom cleanly — he practiced that type of play before batting practice — but he bobbled the ball when taking it out of his glove. Gardener was given a double and advanced to third on Gordon’s error.
Cano followed with his bases clearing double after Teixeira was hit by a pitch and Rodriguez walked to load the bases.
“I knew it was going to be a circus with A-Rod and the home run thing,” Royals starter Brian Bannister said. “I didn’t come out and have a good first inning.”
NOTES: Yankees RF Nick Swisher was a late scratch because of a sore Achilles’ heel. ... The Royals said RHP Sean O’Sullivan will start Sunday against the Yankees. It will be his second start in less than a week at Yankee Stadium. He gave up two hits and two runs over six innings in a win for the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday. The Royals sent 3B Albert Callaspo to the Angels in the deal for O’Sullivan.