Derek Jeter's return was the biggest story for the Yankees as the day began. And while The Captain did his part to help the Yankees win, it was another thirty-something who proved the difference. Alfonso Soriano's third game back in the Bronx proved to be his best so far. Soriano recorded four hits, including a home run and a walk-off single, as the Yankees came away with a 6-5 win.
After a solid top of the first from Phil Hughes, a certain someone was due up second in the bottom half of the inning. After Brett Gardner struck out, Jeter stepped to the plate to the familiar sounds of Bob Sheppard's voice. On the very first pitch of the at bat, Jeter hit at ball towards deep right-center field. For a second, it looked like the ball might die near the wall, but it kept going and going and it just cleared the fence. Jeter's second return began with a home run to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
And shockingly, the offense wasn't done there. Robinson Cano hit an infield single after Matt Moore deflected the liner back to him with his glove. Soriano then got an infield single of his own, on a grounder that shortstop Yunel Escobar couldn't quite get to. Cano moved to third on the play and scored when Vernon Wells hit a sacrifice fly. Ichiro Suzuki came up next. During Ichiro's at bat, Soriano was able to move up a base on wild pitch. Ichiro then dropped a single into center field. That scored Soriano, and Ichiro was able to move to second on the throw. Brent Lillibridge couldn't keep it going as he popped up to second base to end the inning. Jeter's second return was already better than his first and the Yankees had opened up an early 3-0 lead.
Because good things can't last, the Rays cut into the fun with some offense of their own. James Loney led off the top of the second with a single. Wil Myers was next and he grounded into a force out at second. The Yankees put a shift on for Matt Joyce, who bunted a single down the third base line. Kelly Johnson then doubled into the corner in right, scoring Myers and moving Joyce to third. Hughes followed that by striking out Jose Lobaton but then walked Escobar to load the bases. Desmond Jennings flied out to let the Yankees off, but the Rays had cut the lead to 3-1.
After going down easy in the second inning, Hughes gave back more runs to the Rays in the third inning. Evan Longoria and Loney hit back-to-back one out singles, bringing Myers to the plate. Hughes served up a meatball that Myers crushed over the left field wall. Despite the game starting so well, the Rays had taken a 4-3 lead. The inning wasn't over there, as Joyce was hit by a pitch and Johnson singled. That put runners on first and third with one out. Hughes struck out Lobaton and Escobar to finally get out of the inning.
Jeter came back up in the bottom of the third and led off with a single. He moved up a base during Cano's at bat, when Moore was called for a balk. Cano ended up flying out, which brought Soriano back up. The "newest" Yankee hit a home run that just eluded Myers' glove and hit off the top of the wall in right field. The Yankees were back in front with a 5-4 lead.
That lead wouldn't last long either as just a couple innings later, Myers took another Hughes' pitch over the wall. This one was only a solo shot, but it tied the game at five. After issuing a walk to Joyce, Hughes' day was done. He went just four innings, allowing five runs on nine hits and two walks, and exited the field to boos. Preston Claiborne came in and cleaned up the mess, keeping the game tied.
After a scoreless fifth from the Yankees, Moore's day was done too. The Rays' starter went five innings, allowing five runs on eight hits.
Claiborne threw another scoreless inning in the sixth, and Boone Logan was then brought in for the seventh. Logan threw a quick 1-2-3 inning, followed by David Robertson throwing a scoreless inning of his own in the eighth. Problem was that the Yankees weren't scoring during that period either. The Yankees had a decent chance to score when Ichiro led off the eighth with a single. Lillibridge laid down a bunt to move Ichiro over to second. But David Adams grounded out and Chris Stewart struck out to end the inning and keep the game tied at five.
Mariano Rivera came in and threw a scoreless ninth, setting the stage for the bottom of the ninth, when the top of the order was due up. Gardner led off the inning by battling with Jake McGee and drawing a walk on the eighth pitch of the at bat. Jeter was due up next. On the first pitch, he squared around to bunt, but the pitch got past Lobaton. The wild pitch allowed Gardner to move to second without losing the out. Joe Maddon elected to intentionally walk Jeter to face Cano. That strategy worked initially as Cano struck out. But that brought Soriano to the plate. Soriano's first two games back in pinstripes were fairly innocuous, but this one was not. Soriano singled up the middle. Gardner came around from second to score to the game-winning run. Soriano recorded his fourth hit of the day and a got Gatorade shower in his postgame interview, as the Yankees got a 6-5 win.
Jeter went 2-4 with a walk in his return, while Ichiro had a nice day of his own, going 4-4.
The Yankees will now head out west. Following an off-day tomorrow, they will begin a series against the Dodgers starting on Tuesday.
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- The case for retiring Willie Randolph's number
- Alfonso Soriano trade: Brian Cashman overruled by Yankees ownership (again)