Of all the pitchers who have ever made 90 or more career starts for the Yankees, A.J. Burnett has the worst ERA (4.82).
Of all the pitchers who have ever started 11 or more games in a season for the Yankees, Phil Hughes has the seventh highest ERA (6.46).
Good thing the Yankees don't really need to beat the first-place Red Sox this week, with Hughes and Burnett starting two of the three games.
Oh, they'll tell you that they do. They'll talk about the importance of winning the American League East, and of home-field advantage in the playoffs.
But the real importance of this week, and the real importance of every other week until the playoffs begin, is for the Yankees to figure out which of their shaky starting pitchers they can possibly hope to rely on in October. Boston is a good place to try to start figuring, in part because the Red Sox may be the team the Yankees eventually need to beat, and also because in 12 games against the Red Sox this season (10 of them losses), Yankee starters have a 7.54 ERA.
At the moment, Burnett would seem the least reliable, given his 11.91 ERA and 1.142 opponents OPS (Jose Bautista leads all major-league hitters at 1.092) in August.
In fact, with manager Joe Girardi once again promising that the Yankees will go from a six-man rotation to a five-man rotation after the series in Boston, Burnett is the leading candidate to be dropped.
The Yankees would like to think that Hughes is less of a concern, given that in five straight appearances heading into last week, he had a 2.08 ERA. Then Hughes was awful against the light-hitting A's (2 2/3 innings, six runs), and followed it up with the strange comment, "Hopefully I won't face the A's again for a while."
Instead, his next start is against the Red Sox, who lead the majors in scoring.
Hughes should know that; in three appearances against Boston this year, he has a 16.20 ERA.
Even when Hughes had good numbers, scouts weren't overly impressed.
"He was better," said one scout who watched him in a good performance. "But that's not the same Phil Hughes from when he was really good."
Hughes starts Wednesday night. Burnett, 0-4 with an 8.71 ERA in eight starts for the Yankees against the Red Sox, starts Thursday.
So the Yankees might want to win the first game of the series, behind ace CC Sabathia, on Tuesday.
And that, if nothing else, will make this feel just like a Yankee playoff series.
On to 3 to Watch:
1. The Diamondbacks ended the weekend with a four-game lead in the National League West (their biggest yet), which means they're guaranteed to enter September -- and next weekend's big series in San Francisco -- in first place. First, they'll play three games against the Rockies -- the team that was supposed to be challenging the Giants -- beginning with Rockies at Diamondbacks, Monday night (9:40 ET) at Chase Field. Monday's game also features Alex White, one of the two pitchers the Rockies got in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade.
2. At this point, it's probably worth pointing out that Sabathia is 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA in his four starts against the Red Sox this year, and also that his 4.95 ERA in August is easily his highest for any month this year. But there's no doubt that the Yankees trust Sabathia about 10 times more than they trust any of their other starters, so they'll expect him to win, in Yankees at Red Sox, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Sabathia faces the unreliable John Lackey, with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester going against Hughes and Burnett the next two nights.
3. The Yankees talk about home-field advantage, and it's true that they're 41-26 at Yankee Stadium this year. But that's nothing compared to the Brewers, who have a 50-16 home record, with 17 wins in their last 19 games. That record has helped the Brewers turn the National League Central into a runaway, and has greatly diminished the importance of this week's series against second-place St. Louis. The Brewer record for home wins in a season is 54, and they could get close in the series that ends with Cardinals at Brewers, Thursday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Miller Park. Yovani Gallardo, who is 9-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 home starts, will be on the mound for the Brewers. One more thing about the Brewers: Despite playing in the smallest market in the majors, they'll sell their 3 miilionth ticket sometime this week.