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Sunday, November 1, 2009
Updated: November 2, 1:22 PM ET
Burnett to face Lee on short rest

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Yankees are chasing championship No. 27 by throwing their top pitchers on three days' rest.

With a chance to clinch the crown, A.J. Burnett is scheduled to start on short rest against Philadelphia ace Cliff Lee in Game 5 of the World Series on Monday night.

CC Sabathia went on three days' rest Sunday night in Game 4, and Andy Pettitte could do the same in Game 6 if the Series returns to New York.

"Our guys feel good at this time of year," manager Joe Girardi said before a 7-4 victory gave his team a 3-1 Series lead. "We tried to give them some extra rest in the month of September, and they've had some extra rest during the playoffs that we thought was very important."

Burnett
Burnett

With right-hander Joba Chamberlain back in the bullpen, New York has stuck with three starters throughout the postseason. Girardi chose Burnett, who beat Pedro Martinez and the Phillies 3-1 in Game 2, over journeyman Chad Gaudin for Game 5.

Now, Burnett can pitch the Yankees to their 27th title and first since 2000.

"I'd lie if I said I wasn't going to go home and think about it all night," he said. "This is what you talk about growing up. I'm going to do my best to take full advantage of that. I'm not going to take it as just one ordinary game or another start. It's the World Series, Game 5, and I'm the starter. That's what it's all about."

Burnett is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four career starts on short rest, though he hasn't tried it this season.

"To be honest, it's a little different, obviously, in October," he said. "But I feel good right now. Otherwise, I wouldn't take the ball."

New York's approach is a departure from the norm in baseball over the last two decades. According to STATS LLC, no team has won the World Series using only three postseason starters since the 1991 Minnesota Twins.

Jack Morris made five starts, Kevin Tapani four and Scott Erickson three that year for the Twins. Back then, however, the postseason lasted two rounds, not three.

The defending champion Phillies decided to keep Lee on regular rest, giving him the ball in Game 5 rather than setting up a rematch with Sabathia. Lee dominated the Yankees in the opener, tossing a six-hitter with 10 strikeouts and no walks in a 6-1 victory.

New York's only run was unearned, thanks to a throwing error by shortstop Jimmy Rollins in the ninth inning. Lee became the first pitcher in World Series history to have 10 strikeouts, no walks and no earned runs allowed in a complete-game victory, STATS said.

"I don't really overcomplicate it or think, man, I just faced them the other day, it's going to be different now," Lee said. "It's still the same game. I've still got to go out there and locate pitches and do the things that I just said. And if I don't, bad things will probably happen. And if you do, good things will probably happen. That's how I look at it. It's really that simple."

Joe Blanton started Game 4 for Philadelphia against Sabathia. Neither got a decision.

Lee, who has never pitched on three days' rest, has been nearly unhittable in October, going 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in four postseason starts totaling 33 1/3 innings. He has 30 strikeouts and three walks.

Burnett and Lee are each pitching in the postseason for the first time this year. Both from Arkansas, they've developed a friendship over the years.

"I didn't really know him growing up. He was a little ahead of me, but I knew who he was, obviously," Lee said. "It's not very often two guys from the state of Arkansas make it to the big leagues, much less square off against each other in the World Series. ... That's going to be a neat deal for our state and going to be a lot of fun, and something we can talk about for the rest of our lives."

Burnett and Lee share the same agent. They do offseason charity work together, and they chatted on the field before games this weekend.

"It's interesting. They've got two country boys from Arkansas going out," Burnett said. "We talked yesterday, first thing out of his mouth was, 'Look at that Budweiser sign in right -- that's what I'm going to be aiming for.' I said, 'Go ahead, 'cause I can hit, too. I was in the National League for six years.'

"It's going to be fun. It is one of those games you go out there and talk about it, but I can't worry about him too much. I've got a pretty tough lineup ahead of me tomorrow night, and I can't worry about what Cliff does. I've got to worry about what A.J. does."

Burnett said he enjoys pitching on three days' rest because his body doesn't allow him to overthrow. He threw about 30 fewer pitches than usual during his bullpen session Saturday.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I told them I felt good. I'm not going to lie to them and say I felt good if I didn't. ... I've been preparing for it just in case it was going to happen."