NEW YORK -- With the Yankees needing him more than ever, A.J. Burnett rose to the occasion with his sharpest start of the postseason, unloading his high-octane arsenal and helping reset the World Series back to even.
Outdueling Pedro Martinez in a classic performance, Burnett leaned on a pair of solo home runs from Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui to help the Yankees defeat the Phillies on Thursday, 3-1, sending the Fall Classic to Philadelphia tied at 1.
"I knew it was a big game -- it's no lie," Burnett said. "It was the biggest game I've ever thrown in for this team. You can't let that affect you, and I tried not to let it affect me. I knew I had a big task ahead of me with Pedro on the mound, and I wanted to go out and pitch the best I could."
Making the first World Series start of an 11-year carer, Burnett had to take his game to a new level because Martinez was on a mission, thoroughly appearing to enjoy the ringing "Who's your daddy?" chants that made the new Yankee Stadium sound like the original one did in 2004.
Now wielding a reinvented array of offspeed pitches, Martinez shrugged off a nagging chest cold and struck out Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon to open the game, quieting the pent-up jeers rippling through the sellout crowd of 50,181.
"I know they really want to root for me," Martinez said. "It's just that I don't play for the Yankees, that's all. I've always been a good competitor, and they love that. They love the fact that I compete. I'm a New Yorker as well. If I was on the Yankees, I'd probably be like a king over here."
Burnett may have no such illusions of royalty, but he put the Yankees one win closer to a crown. Designated hitter Matt Stairs touched Burnett for an RBI single in the second inning, but that advantage wouldn't last long in the right-hander's seven-inning effort.
Burn, baby, Burn
Take out one shaky start in Game 5 of the ALCS, and A.J. Burnett has been worth every penny this postseason, with a 1.89 ERA in his three other starts.
ALDS Gm 2
4-3 W *
ALCS Gm 2
4-3 W **
ALCS Gm 5
WS Gm 2
* -- 11 innings ** -- 13 innings
Having watched postgame interviews with great interest after Cliff Lee handcuffed the Bombers in Game 1, Burnett tried to do his best right-handed impression by throwing first-pitch strikes to the first 11 Phillies he faced and striking out nine, including Ryan Howard three times.
Pumping his fist after snapping a curveball past Howard to strand two runners in the third inning, Burnett also avoided trouble thanks to catcher Jose Molina's snap-throw pickoff to nab Jayson Werth leaning in the fourth inning -- Molina called it "a lucky shot" -- as Burnett handled the Phillies with aplomb.
"Extremely impressive," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Burnett. "He was great tonight. He gave up the one run, but he gave us seven extremely strong innings and kept his pitch count down. He was able to work in and out with his fastball and throw his good curveball and get some good swings and misses tonight."
Martinez's early mastery was shattered in the fourth inning, as the long-slumbering Teixeira slugged his first career World Series home run over the fence in right-center field, bouncing the ball against the back wall of the Yankees' bullpen.
"We hadn't done much offensively all series, and Pedro was pitching great," Teixeira said. "We tip our hats to him. But I think the home run got the crowd back in it. It evened the game.
New York was victorious in a World Series game for the first time since winning Game 3 in 2003 at Florida. The Game 2 win broke the Yanks' fifth-longest World Series skid.
"Hopefully, it gave A.J. some confidence that we were actually going to score for him, and it kind of put a little bit of a crack in their armor."
Teixeira snapped an 8-for-44 (.182) postseason slump with the homer, his second of the playoffs after he belted a walk-off shot in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Twins. The blast came as no surprise to Alex Rodriguez, who predicted on Wednesday that Teixeira was about to bust out.
"Nothing changed," said Rodriguez, who himself is 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in the World Series. "He got a good pitch, and he put a good swing on it. I like the way Tex looks up there. Today was a great home run."
Matsui then broke the tie in the sixth by belting Martinez's 97th pitch about five rows over the right-field wall for his second career World Series home run, creating a new wave of chants from a reinvigorated crowd that finally had something to cheer about.
"His home run was huge," Girardi said. "It's the first lead we've had in this series in the two games."
The go-ahead homer provided Burnett with extra juice, as he came out for the seventh firing darts, seeming to embrace the energy as he put the last touches on a four-hit effort.
Most career World Series saves
"I think I fed off the crowd," Burnett said. "They were up every time I got one strike, they were up every time I got two and instead of overthrowing, I kind of just stayed within myself and they started to cheer a lot."
Meanwhile, Martinez sputtered at the end of his eight-strikeout outing, this improbable second World Series start near the conclusion of a magnificent career. Jerry Hairston Jr. opened the seventh with a single, and Melky Cabrera followed suit to chase Martinez.
"He may not throw 96 [mph], but when I was at the plate, he was pinpointing," Hairston said. "I went back and looked at the film. He was throwing strikes. He threw perfect pitches. Sometimes, you have to scratch and claw on a guy like that."
Handing the ball off to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, Martinez looked skyward from the infield grass and pointed his right index finger, appearing to savor the slow walk off the mound as he looked into the three decks of the Stadium.
Chan Ho Park relieved to face Jorge Posada, and the pinch-hitting backstop ripped a fat offering into center field to send home pinch-runner Brett Gardner with New York's third run, charged to Martinez.
"That's all I could do for today," Martinez said. "I don't feel like I saved anything. I did everything I could to beat those guys. You have to give them a lot of credit. You have to give Burnett a lot of credit for the kind of game he was able to pitch. It's just a loss. I just don't see them beating us too often with just three runs or less."
This time, though, it was enough. The Yankees were able to hold on to the two-run advantage by asking for a six-out save from closer Mariano Rivera, who sent the clubs on the rails to Philadelphia by slamming the door for his 38th postseason save, his 10th in World Series play.
"It's a terrible cliche, but it was a must-win," Teixeira said. "You don't want to go [behind], 0-2 into Philadelphia. I know how tough they are at home, especially in the World Series. Their fans are going to be all over us. It's going to be a great couple of games out there. But if we went in there 0-2, it would have been a tough road for us."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.