NEW YORK -- Jimmy Rollins said Yankee Stadium was "tame and civilized."
We're thinking Yankee fans were just anxious and nervous. We're thinking that they've spent so much time worrying about the exact predicament the Yankees faced Thursday night -- down a game in a postseason series, A.J. Burnett pitching to save the season -- that instead of screaming they were all holding their breath.
Rely on the ever-unreliable A.J.? In the World Series?
As the Phillies' Rollins said, and as Yankee fans know and fear, "sometimes [Burnett] is going to beat himself, and sometimes he's going to beat you."
This is the guy the Yankees handed $82.5 million last winter. But this is also the guy who gave up four first-inning runs last week against the Angels, and then gave up the lead the moment the Yankees gave it to him.
This is the guy the Yankees handed the ball to in Game 2, already down a game after Cliff Lee outpitched the very-reliable CC Sabathia.
And this is the guy who actually delivered Thursday night, doing what every Yankee starter for the last 13 years has hoped to do: Pitch long enough, and pitch well enough, to hand the ball directly to the great Mariano Rivera for a 3-1 Yankees win.
In Burnett's case, that meant going seven innings and allowing just one run. It meant allowing just two hits after Matt Stairs' run-scoring single in the second inning. It meant retiring the last eight Phillies he faced in order, the last three after Hideki Matsui's home run handed the Yankees the lead in the sixth.
It also meant throwing first-pitch strikes to the first 11 Phillies batters Burnett faced.
"That's not like him," Rollins said.
The Phillies' game plan against Burnett was fairly obvious. The first seven batters took the first pitch. They were going to let Burnett get himself in trouble, which he is so capable of doing.
And which he didn't do Thursday, in the biggest game he has ever pitched.
"I knew it was a big game," Burnett said. "It's no lie. But at the same time, you can't let that affect you, and I tried not to let it affect me."
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With Burnett, things always seem to affect him. It's why he never seems to live up to his stuff, which everyone agrees is among the best in the game. It's why he, alone among Yankee pitchers, can't throw to starting catcher Jorge Posada and needs the offensively-challenged Jose Molina in the lineup every time he pitches.
"We try to calm him down the best we can," Molina said. "He can be in a bad situation, but he can still get out of it when he's calm, because he can strike people out."
Sure enough, Burnett was able to strike out Pedro Feliz to end the second inning with a runner on base. He struck out Ryan Howard to end the third with two runners on, and he fanned Rollins after Carlos Ruiz's one-out double in the fifth.
And when he left the game after seven, he was leaving it in the ever-safe hands of Rivera. Sure enough, for the second time this week and the 14th time in his incredible postseason career, Rivera recorded the final six outs of a Yankee win.
Rivera is the expected, the sure thing. Burnett is the unexpected, the guy who seems capable of throwing a no-hitter any time out, but also seems capable of self-destructing at any moment.
The Phillies kept waiting for that self-destructive moment. On this night, it never came.
"He never got outside of himself," Rollins said. "That's very untypical of A.J. Burnett."
If that doesn't sound like much praise, maybe this will:
"A.J. competed," Rollins said. "I really enjoyed facing him."
See, while the Phillies understand how vulnerable Burnett can be, they also understand how good he can be. They know there will be games where in the first inning he barely cracks 90 mph (last week in Anaheim, for one), but that there will also be games where he comes out firing at 95-96 mph (as he did Thursday).
They know how the curveball can be devastating, how when Burnett gets on a roll, innings fly by and the hitters don't seem to have a chance. They know there's a reason he was so sought-after on the free-agent market last winter, a reason the Yankees eventually went to a guaranteed fifth year (which the Braves would never do) and a guaranteed $82.5 million.
"Games like tonight," Rollins said.
Yes, games like Thursday, games like Game 2 of a World Series in which the Yankees already trailed one game to none.
The danger of having Burnett pitch games like this is that you're never sure exactly what you're going to get. The other side of it is that when he's good, he might just be unbeatably good.
He can dominate every bit as much as Cliff Lee has dominated. Maybe he would dominate like that, if only he could ever be as calm on the mound as Lee so often is.
In a strange way, maybe Lee's Game 1 led to Burnett's Game 2.
"I sat and watched his interview, and he talked about confidence and he talked about belief in his stuff," Burnett said. "And all I told myself last night and today was the same thing. I went out tonight with confidence, and the game just rolled by."
All those Phillies hitters were waiting for Burnett to beat himself. Maybe all those "tame and civilized" Yankee Stadium fans were waiting and fearing the same thing.
On this night, it never happened.
Rely on A.J.?
On this night, why not?