video thumbnail

CWS@NYY: Soriano allows lead-changing homer

NEW YORK -- The Yankees' shutdown bullpen was supposed to be something to thump their chests about, but you wouldn't have known that in the eighth inning on Tuesday, as Rafael Soriano stomped in anger behind the mound.

Soriano surrendered a go-ahead two-run homer to Paul Konerko and the White Sox got two game-saving catches from Brent Lillibridge in the ninth inning, hanging on for a stunning 3-2 victory at Yankee Stadium.

"It's not easy for me," said Soriano, who blew his first save in a home game since July 2007. "I'm trying to figure it out, how I can do the same that I did last year. I'm struggling right now."

The Yankees' prized winter addition, Soriano saved 45 games for the Rays last season and inked a three-year, $35 million deal to serve as Mariano Rivera's setup man, but the early results haven't been favorable.

"I still believe that he's going to be very, very good for us," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "He's going to play a huge role for us. He just got off to a little rough start."

Soriano coughed up the lead after Ivan Nova hurled a career-high 6 1/3 innings, leaving in line for the victory as he was backed by solo home runs from Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner.

After Soriano hit Carlos Quentin with a one-out slider, Konerko made the right-hander pay for a poorly located fastball, homering over the left-field wall and drawing boos from the Bronx crowd for the second time in as many nights.

Soriano has allowed nine runs on 12 hits in 11 appearances spanning 10 1/3 innings, posting a 7.84 ERA. He has already walked eight batters after issuing only 14 free passes in 62 1/3 innings last year for Tampa Bay.

"It's a little different to me, being the closer or the setup man," Soriano said. "It's a bad day, a bad month. I remember in '07 with Atlanta, I did almost the same thing. I came back, and everyone saw the numbers I put up in Atlanta."

Alex Rodriguez said he still believes that Soriano and Rivera will develop into the best relief tandem in the league.

"New York is a challenging place," Rodriguez said. "He's a very talented guy. I faced Sori; that's really not a guy you want to be facing with the game on the line. It's an adjustment period."

The Yankees would have bailed Soriano out if not for back-to-back ninth-inning catches by Lillibridge, who had played just 32 innings in right field before entering the game as an eighth-inning pinch-runner.

Chicago starter Gavin Floyd started the ninth but departed after Derek Jeter's leadoff infield hit, and Matt Thornton allowed a sacrifice bunt and a walk before also exiting.

Facing Sergio Santos, Rodriguez ripped a liner to right field that Lillibridge snared against the padding of the wall for the first catch.

Lillibridge then made an even better grab on a sinking Cano liner, diving to keep the ball off the grass and securing the final out.

"The biggest thing in my head was if there was a close play I have a chance for, I'm going for it," Lillibridge said. "We have to have that attitude. It's been rough for us, so I said, 'All or nothing.' I could have been the goat. In this instance, I was able to win the game."

A-Rod called Lillibridge's dive "courageous," adding, "If that ball even ricochets off his glove, we win that game."

Nick Swisher was more blunt: "You'd better be sure you make that play, because if not, game's over," he said.

One night after White Sox right-hander Phil Humber carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, the Yankees got two swings that counted off Floyd, as Cano homered in the second inning and Gardner slugged one out in the fifth.

But that was half of New York's hit total against Floyd, who struck out 10 as the Yankees try to figure out how to put more ducks on the pond for their homer-happy offense.

"We ran into a little bit of a rut the last two days," Rodriguez said. "We'll be right back at it [Wednesday]."

The positives came out of a big outing for Nova, who allowed only a fifth-inning Gordon Beckham RBI single, walking two and striking out three.

Dave Robertson stranded two runners in the seventh, helping out Nova, who had managed to last just 4 1/3 innings in each of his last two starts and seemed to be running out of time to impress.

"Every one for me is important," Nova said. "I've just got to worry about doing my job and not worry about anything else. If I do my job, everything is going to be good."

So the focus now moves to the eighth inning. Despite the early-season stumbles, Girardi said he has no plans to change his bullpen alignment, keeping Soriano -- and not Robertson or Joba Chamberlain -- firmly in line for the eighth inning.

"You've got to fight your way out of it," Girardi said. "You keep using the guys. You get them on track. I haven't lost any confidence in Rafael Soriano. This is a very good pitcher that just happened to give up a two-run homer tonight." Comments