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Complete lesson learned


Complete lesson learned
Baseball REPORTER

For three seasons, A.J. Burnett was a pitching enigma for the Toronto Blue Jays , capturing the imagination of fans with his golden right arm while at the same time alienating many with his brittle health and often immature manner.

The time was not wasted on Burnett, who says he learned much about his craft while studying Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, a good friend Burnett affectionately refers to as "Anamoid."

Last night, the pupil returned to his old stomping grounds for the first time since bolting for big bucks in free agency in a much-anticipated showdown against his mentor.

And the mentor showed he is still the master.

Before a ramped-up gathering of 43,737 at Rogers Centre - the largest home crowd since opening day - Halladay was magnificent, spinning a complete-game five-hitter as the Blue Jays (23-12) tamed the Yankees 5-1.

It was an intriguing pitching matchup, the best the major leagues has had to offer so far this season, and before the game Toronto manager Cito Gaston said he was excited by the prospect.

"I mean, this is what you play the game for, right here, when you have matchups like this," he said.

In winning his fourth in a row to improve to 7-1, Halladay has now gone at least seven innings in each of his eight starts. It was Halladay's first complete game of the year, 41st of his career and fifth against the Yankees.

Halladay utilized a devastating cutter to both sides of the plate to help him strike out five while not issuing a walk. The Yankees (15-17) lost for the seventh time in their past nine outings.

Halladay said pitching against his old teammate did not whip up his competitive juices any more than usual.

"I think any time it's the Yankees, not so much A.J.," he said. "As a pitcher, you kind of have to keep your focus on the lineup you're facing and not so much on who's pitching on the other side."

Burnett lasted 72/3 innings and was burned for all five Toronto runs off seven hits as his record dipped to 2-1 in seven starts.

Scott Rolen, who before last night had gone hitless in his career (0-for-18) against Burnett, was the offensive hero, going 3-for-4 with three runs batted in.

"I'm not a numbers guy," Rolen said. "I hate the numbers. I like the competition. I was able to go out and compete and break through."

Jays second baseman Aaron Hill also continued his torrid play, smacking a home run, his ninth of the season.

The boisterous crowd - more than twice what the Blue Jays have been averaging at home on the season - was poised for Burnett's return and did not waste any time letting him know how they felt about his off-season defection. He signed a five-year, $82.5-million (U.S.) deal with New York after winning 18 games for the Blue Jays last season.

The first sight of Burnett, as he emerged from the Yankees bullpen in right field a full half-hour before the game started, elicited loud cat-calls from many of the early-bird fans.

"He's the enemy now," said Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, the man responsible for luring Burnett to Toronto in 2006. "We're not rooting for him."

Burnett held the Jays hitless until the fourth inning, when Alex Rios struck a lead-off double. He then issued walks to the next two batters and the crowd, sensing blood, began chanting "A.J., A.J." in a derisive fashion as Rolen settled into the batter's box.

Rolen didn't let the fans down, ripping a hit just inside third base for a double that scored two.

Two batters later, Rod Barajas's sacrifice fly to right gave the Blue Jays a 3-0 margin.

Last night marked the first of a three-game series for the Blue Jays and Yankees.

****

ON DECK

NOTES New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who is always one of the favourite targets along with Alex Rodriguez for Toronto fans to vent their anger on, was a late scratch yesterday, sitting out with a sore oblique muscle.

NEXT Today, New York Yankees at Rogers Centre, 7:07 p.m. EDT

PROBABLES Jays RHP Scott Richmond (4-1, 3.29 ERA) v. Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte (2-1, 4.38)

TV Rogers Sportsnet

Robert MacLeod


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 13, 2009

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