Burnett's previous outing was truncated by his own stormy tirade in the clubhouse, in which he slammed open a set of doors and cut each of his palms. This time around, it was a literal storm that ended his night, with the lengthy delay in the fifth cutting short his otherwise excellent effort.
"It was definitely a good start in the right direction," said Burnett, who earned just his second win since the end of May. "Anytime you do better than what I had, it's easy to smile."
It all boiled down to command for Burnett, of both his pitches and his emotions. He had his fastball working all night, and he found the proper release point on his curveball by the fifth. When the Royals put runners on, Burnett got out of the jams. He induced a Billy Butler double play in the first, stranded Wilson Betemit at third in the second and struck out Butler in the third with two men on.
For the night, Burnett allowed four hits -- three of which were singles -- and just one walk. He struck out three.
"Everything was good, under control, just one walk," catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "Everybody knows the enemy is the walk."
"You look at his last four starts, and three of them have been really good," manager Joe Girardi said. "That's the kind of roll you want guys to get in. You just try to build from this one."
Burnett's outing lent credence to the notion that his last start against Tampa Bay was more an aberration than the two solid ones he had before the All-Star break. Still trying to recover from a dreadful June, he evened his record at 8-8 and provided much-needed stability in a week in which the rotation lost Andy Pettitte for a month.
Burnett's job was made easier since he was pitching most of the night with a sizable lead. The Yankees jumped all over Kansas City starter Brian Bannister in the first, beginning with Brett Gardner's leadoff double down the right-field line. After a Derek Jeter groundout, Bannister hit Mark Teixeira and walked Rodriguez on a full count. Robinson Cano followed with a bases-clearing double to left-center.
"Cano has been the hottest hitter on their team all year," said Bannister, who allowed 10 earned runs in a single inning in his previous start in the Bronx in 2008. "We didn't even try to throw him a strike. We tried to get him to hit a high fastball, and he got on top of it."
Posada followed with a double down the right-field line to score Cano and give the catcher 1,000 career RBIs.
"That's quite an accomplishment, especially for a catcher," Girardi said.
"I called for the ball before sliding into second," said Posada.
After the game, Bannister acknowledged that the hoopla surrounding Rodriguez's milestone chase got to him a little bit, between the flashbulbs from the stands and the specially marked baseballs substituted in for Rodriguez's at-bats.
"No matter what the situation is in the game when he comes up, it's going to feel like bases loaded, two outs in the bottom of the ninth in the playoffs, just because everybody is on their feet," Bannister said. "There is going to be more flashbulbs that you've ever seen in your life. There is nothing like it."
Rodriguez's at-bats were indeed greeted by excess fanfare, and seldom have base hits been so disappointing to the home crowd. He finished the night 2-for-4 with a run scored.
"I thought his approach was very good tonight," Girardi said. "I didn't necessarily see him pressing."
The Yankees drained the game of any of its non-Rodriguez suspense in the sixth, when Gardner drove in two with a single to left-center off Victor Marte for a 6-0 lead.