After escaping jam, Soriano absorbs loss

After escaping jam, Soriano absorbs loss

DETROIT -- The bullpen solution -- cost: $35 million -- entered in the seventh inning of a tied game on Monday. Rafael Soriano had struggled all season long, but the postseason has a way of making even the darkest of regular-season struggles seem trivial.

It also has a way of doing the opposite. Take Monday, for example. Soriano threw a first-pitch fastball to Delmon Young with one out in the seventh inning. Young cranked it over the right-field seats. And the result was a 5-4 Tigers victory in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, pushing the Yankees to the brink of elimination.

"To me, that was a good pitch," Soriano said through an interpreter. "Nothing I can do now."

The pitch was close to catcher Russell Martin's intended target, though it did catch perhaps a bit too much of the plate. Martin scrunched his face when asked about the fastball.

"He just put a good swing on the ball," the catcher said of Young. "If you want to get beat in that situation, obviously it's to the opposite field."

"We needed desperately to get a run, because playing a tied ballgame with the Yankees late in the game is never fun," Young said. "There's always some type of spark and magic that they have late in ballgames."

The Yankees had intended for Soriano to be a significant part of that magic. Before David Robertson emerged as one of the game's best setup men, Soriano -- not Robertson -- was supposed to be the primary solution in a revamped Yankees bullpen. Knowing how difficult it can be to find quality relievers, the Yankees drew a significant portion of their offseason plan around Soriano, who had thrived as Tampa Bay's closer in 2010.

But a right elbow injury and some overall ineffectiveness led to a 5.01 ERA as late as Aug. 24. In the first year of his shiny new contract, Soriano not only lost his grip on the eighth inning, but on the seventh as well.

It was not until September that Soriano returned to manager Joe Girardi's good graces, posting a 2.81 ERA and holding opponents to a .220 batting average over his final 17 outings of the regular season. Finally healthy, Soriano reclaimed a role of significance, pitching the seventh inning of close games.

The only thing he had not done entering Monday's play was pitch more than one inning in any given game. But with starting pitcher CC Sabathia struggling, Girardi turned to Soriano with two men in scoring position and two outs in the sixth. Soriano escaped the jam.

Then Girardi made his critical mistake, sending Soriano back out for the seventh. Young homered, the Tigers won and the Yankees were left retracing their steps.

"I knew with the situation in the game, I was going to go in maybe for the last two outs of that inning and then come back and try to pitch the next inning," Soriano said. "I was mentally ready and prepared for that situation."

Sometimes, however, preparedness and productiveness do not mesh.

"He was well-rested," Girardi said. "He missed the location. That's going to happen."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.