NEW YORK The Yankees acquired power hitting outfielder Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs on Friday in the hopes that his right handed bat would swiftly upgrade a beleaguered offense that had hit only .237 with no home runs since the All Star Break.
It didn't work.
Though Soriano likely represents an improvement over the hitters he'll replace in the Yankees' lineup he managed only a couple of lazy fly balls and a pair of groundouts across the first eight innings of the club's 10 6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night. Then with the bases loaded and a chance to draw the game within one run with one out in the ninth Soriano grounded into a fielder's choice that scored a run but hampered the team's rally.
BOX SCORE Rays 10 Yankees 6
I haven't played those guys so I don't know what they throw Soriano said of his first game as an American Leaguer since 2005. But we have a hitting coach and we have video so I want to make that adjustment and get my timing as quickly as possible.
Soriano who made his Major League debut with the Yankees in 1999 and emerged as a star in New York in 2002 rejoined the club after smacking 17 homers in 93 games with Chicago this season. The team hopes he will provide the right handed power bat it has sorely missed in the absence of embattled and injured slugger Alex Rodriguez.
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We've been obviously trying to improve our offense to no avail throughout this season said general manager Brian Cashman. I know we're going to be better for it. We've obviously been decimated especially against left handed pitching something he's very good at.
It's a good day for me to have a chance to put on the uniform again Soriano said. This is a great organization.
With many of their best offensive weapons absent due to injury the Yankees have struggled to score runs all season. Rodriguez Derek Jeter Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira have combined to play a total of 16 games one by Jeter 15 by Teixeira before leaving the team for season ending wrist surgery.
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Despite playing home games in one of the best hitters' parks in baseball the Yanks entered play Friday averaging 3.87 runs a game third worst in the American League above only the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox who have the worst and second worst record in the circuit respectively.
Thanks mostly to solid starting pitching and a great bullpen the injury weakened Yanks roster outperformed expectations in the first half. The loss on Friday dropped the Yankees to 54 49 seven games back of the Rays who seized first place in the division from the Boston Red Sox with the win.
We're in a stretch where we're playing teams that are ahead of us said New York manager Joe Girardi. We need to catch these teams and we need to win the games.
Though 38 year old Hiroki Kuroda has anchored the Yankees pitching staff all season lefty CC Sabathia has struggled of late. The typically reliable starter allowed seven earned runs across five innings on Friday and has a 6.05 ERA over his last nine starts.
It's tough Sabathia said. We're right in the middle of this thing and if I could help us out I feel like we'd be doing a lot better. But getting no help from me is making it tough.
As good as he's been it's just really shocking what he's going through Girardi said.
In addition to Soriano the Yanks' offense stands to benefit from the return of its injured stars soon. Jeter who missed the first three months of the season with a broken ankle then strained his quad in his first and only game back will play a simulated game on Saturday and could be in the lineup within a few days. Granderson has begun playing minor league rehab games en route to recovering from a series of hand injuries.
And despite some miscommunication and suspected ill will between the team and Rodriguez the Yankees have targeted an Aug. 1 return for the slugger who is rehabbing a strained quad of his own at the team's complex in Tampa Fla.
But with the oldest roster in baseball made older yet by the acquisition of the 37 year old Soriano the Yankees cannot reasonably assume full health for the stretch run after their trio of injured stars returns. And though Cashman said before the game that he expects more offensive help to become available on the trade market soon it's not clear the Yankees are best served forfeiting any small part of their future on behalf of a season that sees an aging and injury riddled team approaching the trade deadline in fourth place in the toughest division in baseball.
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