I would never try to tell you that I was disappointed when the Yankees traded away Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodríguez before the 2004 season. Rodríguez was the best player in baseball back then, so it would be hard to argue with that deal even knowing what we know now, but I was definitely sorry to see Soriano go. He should’ve been the hero of the 2001 World Series, he was coming off two spectacular seasons in ’02 and ’03, and even though there were holes in his swing and questions about his work ethic, it was hard to argue with the numbers on the back of his baseball card.
So when my summer tour of the Midwest was interrupted by the news that the Yankees had reacquired Soriano, I was thrilled even if Brian Cashman wasn’t. Even if you accepted that the odds of hanging a twenty-eighth banner this October were slim, it still felt like a good deal to me. Any extra bat added to the anemic attack we’d suffered through over the first four months would have to be a good thing, right?
Of course, no one could’ve imagined what happened over the past two days against the Angels. Soriano had hit two home runs and driven in six runs on Monday night, with all of that damage coming in the final four innings, and he picked up right where he left off on Tuesday.
Jered Weaver was on the mound for the Angels, and I don’t particularly like Jered Weaver. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because he always looks like he’s absolutely miserable. Remember when your dad used to tell you stop crying or he’d give you something to cry about? Well, the Yankees gave Weaver something to be miserable about, but quick. After Brett Gardner and Ichiro made the first two outs of the first inning, Robinson Canó laced a single right back over Weaver’s head, then A-Rod promptly doubled him over to third. The right-handed Weaver played the percentages and gave the left-handed Curtis Granderson four straight balls to load the bases for our boy Soriano.
Statistically, it was the right move, but it didn’t work. Weaver left a fastball right over the heart of the plate, and Soriano did his job. He absolutely crushed it to straightaway center field for a grand slam and a 4-0 Yankee lead.
The heart of the lineup — and this lineup actually has a heart now — did more two-out damage in the second inning. With runners on first and second, Canó ripped a single to right to push the score to 5-0, and after a walk to A-Rod, Granderson singled in another run, making it 6-0. This brought up Soriano, who crushed another ball, this one just a double to score two. 8-0.
An eight-run cushion would be enough even for a fifth starter, but when it’s your ace on the mound as it was on Tuesday, you might as well send everyone home. Ivan Nova didn’t have his best stuff, but he labored through 7.1 innings and only gave up three runs.
As I said, the eight runs would’ve been enough for Nova, but they weren’t enough for the Yankee hitters. When Soriano led off the fifth inning with another home run, his fourth in two games, he elevated himself into some fairly exclusive company. With six RBIs on Monday and seven more on Tuesday, Soriano became just the seventh player in history to total at least thirteen RBIs in consecutive games and only the third player to have six or more RBIs in each of two consecutive games.
The Angels finally wised up and walked Soriano in his fourth and final at bat of the night, but he scored along with Granderson on a Chris Stewart single for the game’s final runs. Yankees 11, Angels 3.
The only downside that I can see to all this is that the Yankees have me believing again. Maybe this lineup is good enough to score on a consistent basis. Maybe Ivan Nova will continue to string together quality starts. Maybe Hiroki Kuroda (the team’s other ace) will do the same. Maybe Derek Jeter will finally get healthy and add even more depth to the lineup.
Maybe this team will make the playoffs. And after that? Who knows.
[Photo Credit: Rich Shultz/Getty Images]