The numbers really tell the story of Rafael Soriano. There are the three years and $35 million the Yankees gave him this offseason, there are the 45 saves he had last season, and then there are the numbers he’s put up in his first month in pinstripes.
Tonight’s blown eighth inning gave Soriano his first blown save in a home game since 2007, ending a streak of 38 converted opportunities. He has allowed eight walks and nine earned runs through 11 appearances.
Last year he allowed 14 walks and 12 earned runs through 64 appearances.
“It’s not been easy for me,” Soriano said. “I’ve tried to figure out how to do the same that I did last year. I’ve been struggling right now, but I’ll take it, forget all that tonight, come back tomorrow and find out.”
The Yankees said all the things you would expect, and frankly, there’s not much else they can say.
Joe Girardi said he’s going to stick with Soriano in the eighth inning, which he has to do. It would be a complete knee-jerk reaction to dump him from that role less than a month into the season.
Alex Rodriguez said he still thinks Soriano is not a guy anyone wants to face in the late innings of a tight ball game, and it’s true that Soriano was throwing harder tonight than he has all season.
“I’ve faced Sori and that’s not a guy you really want to be facing with the game on the line,” Rodriguez said. “There’s an adjustment period. There’s a huge adjustment going from the ninth to the eighth. He’s working on his routine and I think he’s going to be just fine. We’re going to sit right by him and support him.”
Soriano brought up his slow start in 2007, when he had a 7.36 ERA through eight appearances and turned things around for a typically dominant season. It seems to be a fair comparison, but Soriano allowed a hit in only two of those first eight appearances in ’07. It just happened that he allowed three runs each time he allowed even one hit.
“I feel fine,” he said. “I feel comfortable with the team and everything. A bad day. I’ll come back tomorrow.”
Even with Soriano’s bungled eighth inning, the Yankees would have won this game if not for Brent Lillibridge making two terrific catches in the ninth. They were the last two outs of the game, one leaping catch at the wall to rob Alex Rodriguez of a double, and one diving catch on a low line drive to rob Robinson Cano of the game-winner.
“The kid was the difference in the game,” Girardi said.
With one out and two on, Rodriguez said he was thinking double when he drove the ball to right. With Eduardo Nunez pinch running at first, Rodriguez said he thought both runs might score. Instead, Lillibridge made the grab. Next up was Cano, and if Lillibridge had missed on his dive, the ball would have shot past him, letting the tying and winning runs score easily.
“You’ve got to be damn sure you make that play,” Nick Swisher said. “Because if not, the game’s over.”
Said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen: “When Alex hit the first one I said, here we go again. The last guy that I wanted to see in that situation was Cano. When you look at the lineup that’s going to be due up in the last inning, you know you have to bring your best bullets. The ball bounced our way tonight. That’s just the way the way the baseball is. Baseball is so crazy.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame.
• Nice start from Ivan Nova. With 10 days between starts — and one short relief appearance thrown in there — Nova was at his best, showing improved fastball command a pitching a career-high 6.1 innings. “I was focused and confident,” he said. “I was more aggressive.”
• The curveball was a big pitch for Nova, and he said he started leaning on that more than his slider. Mostly, he said it was the fact he was aggressive that made him most happy and made the biggest difference.
• Cano has homered in three of his last four games at Yankee Stadium. Brett Gardner has homered in two of his past four games overall.
• The Yankees have managed seven hits the past two nights. Both Phil Humber and Gavin Floyd seem to have kept them offbalance with offspeed pitches. Floyd has a terrific curveball, and it was working tonight.
• Girardi on the offense: “I would love to say that this offense was going to get 10 to 12 hits every night, but there’s not an offense in America that’s going to do that. There’s going to be times when you just don’t swing the bat as well as others. Sometimes it will make sense. Sometimes it won’t make sense. We ran into two guys that have thrown the ball extremely well and we haven’t necessarily swung the bats well, but I’ll take our chances with this offense on a daily basis.”
• Rodriguez failed to reach base for the first time this season.
• Speaking of the first time: This was the first time the Yankees had ever lost a game in which Brett Gardner hit a home run.
• After being rained out yesterday with Tampa, Francisco Cervelli made a rehab appearance for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight. Girardi indicated pregame that the Yankees want him to catch back-to-back games before they consider activating him from the disabled list.
• From the Yankees PR department, the Yankees have scored 61.3 percent of their runs on home runs this season.
• The Yankees became the last team in MLB to lose back-to-back games this season.
Associated Press photos