A.J. is A-OK

There is no surprise why the Orioles made Brian Matusz their first selection in the 2008 amateur draft. Baltimore cannot attract free-agent pitchers to their cozy, hitter-friendly Camden Yards layout, so come draft time the Orioles look for arms.

Ever since Mike Mussina bolted the Inner Harbor for the Yankees 10 years ago, the Orioles have been hard-pressed to convince pitchers to wear the orange and black. The spiffy, retro ballpark with the tight power alleys (364 feet) and short fences is a nightmare for pitchers, so the question is, just how does A.J. Burnett do it?

Burnett outpitched Matusz Thursday night in the Yankees’ 4-0 victory over the Orioles with an absolute gem as he yielded three singles and one walk in eight innings. The performance improved Burnett’s career record at Camden Yards to 5-0 with a 3.89 ERA, which makes you wonder why the Orioles didn’t try to outbid the Yankees for his services when he was a free agent after the 2008 season.

Granted, Burnett (3-0, 2.43) had some strong run support in his six previous Camden Yards starts considering he was unbeaten despite a 4.75 ERA. Thursday night, though, the Yankees’ supply of runs was not an abundance of offense in this yard, but as it turned out all Burnett needed was only one of Robinson Cano’s two home runs to win there again.

Marcus Thames is earning himself more at-bats as the DH against left-handed pitching. With three more hits Thursday night, Thames raised his average to .588 — .600 against lefties. Maybe he should bat second.

The Yankees are still searching for someone to be effective in the 2-hole in the batting order. The spot that opened because Johnny Damon declined to re-sign with the Yankees and went to Detroit as a free agent has been a problem all season.

Nick Swisher was 0-for-5 in that role, which dropped the overall batting average of 2-hole hitters to .139. That is also what the Yankees are getting out of the third spot from Mark Teixeira, who is off to another slow start. On top of that, cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez is mired in a 0-for-19 slump. A-Rod is in one of those droughts that he has experienced closing in on a milestone home run. In 2007, he went 28 at-bats before hitting his 500th career home run. Since coming within one home run of tying Frank Robinson for seventh on the all-time list with 586, A-Rod is 6-for-35 (.171).

All of which means thank goodness for Cano, who remains red hot with a .407 average, tops in the majors. Two home runs, his seventh and eighth, plus a double boosted his numbers during an eight-game hitting streak to 17-for-32 (.531) with a double, a triple, four home runs and seven RBI.

Some people wondered if Cano could handle batting fifth. How about third or fourth?

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