Soriano delivers heroics in Jeter's return

Soriano delivers heroics in Jeter's return

NEW YORK -- Bob Sheppard's legendary voice played over the public address system and Derek Jeter strode to the plate as a sellout Yankee Stadium crowd rose to its feet. The Yankees' captain stepped into the box, took the first pitch he saw from Rays starter Matt Moore and deposited it into the right-field seats for a solo home run.

And that wasn't even the defining moment of Sunday's game.

Alfonso Soriano capped off an impressive day at the plate with a walk-off single to center field in the ninth inning, scoring Brett Gardner from second base and helping the Yankees avoid a series sweep with a 6-5 win.

"It feels great," Soriano said. "First win. Comeback. It's a very exciting moment to get back to the Yankees, having a game-winning hit. It's a very special moment."

After going 0-for-8 in his first two games back in pinstripes, Soriano showed why New York acquired him from the Cubs on Friday. The left fielder also hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the third inning, and he finished the afternoon 4-for-5 with the homer, three RBIs and two runs scored.

His third-inning blast was his 18th of the season and his first with New York since the 2003 World Series.

"He had a big day for us, as well. The game-winner, the two-run homer, the couple hits that he had," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We've talked about trying to get some right-handed bats here because against lefties, at times, we've run out five and six left-handers against lefties. You get two [right-handers] that have had a lot of success against lefties and it changes your lineup."

Soriano provided the game-winning hit, but it was Jeter who made the most noise in the Bronx on Sunday. Playing in his first game since July 11, the shortstop -- who missed the Yankees' first 91 games with a broken left ankle and the last 12 with a quad strain -- finished his second game of the season 2-for-4 with a home run, a single and two groundouts while scoring two runs and playing nine innings in the field.

"It feels good to contribute," said Jeter, who said he felt fine physically after the game. "The first of anything is difficult to get -- first hit, first home run, first RBI, first game is difficult for me to get. It feels great to contribute, but more importantly, we won.

"I wouldn't feel good if we lost this game."

Luckily for Jeter, the Yankees didn't. His first-inning blast sparked a three-run inning, giving the Yankees an early lead against Moore and the Rays.

"As soon as he hit it," Moore said, "I knew he drilled it."

Jeter's home run was the Yankees' first home run since the All-Star break and the first by a right-handed hitter since Jayson Nix hit one on June 25. Entering the game, the team had hit just one right-handed home run since May 15.

"He's a movie is what he is," Girardi said. "We hadn't hit a home run since the All-Star break, we hadn't hit a right-handed home run in months and for him to come out and do that his first AB -- he's a movie."

Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who drove in New York's third run of the first inning, finished the afternoon 4-for-4 with four singles and an RBI, tying his Yankees career high for hits in a single game.

"With Jeter coming back and Soriano finishing the game like that, it feels like a new team that was born today," Ichiro said. "Maybe this will be many more to come."

The game almost didn't have a storybook ending, though. Yankees starter Phil Hughes struggled despite the early cushion, allowing a run on three hits in the second inning and giving up a monster go-ahead, three-run home run to Rays right fielder Wil Myers in the third inning to let Tampa Bay take a 4-3 lead.

Soriano's home run in the bottom half of the inning put New York back on top by a run, but Myers took that lead away from the Yankees again in the fifth inning, hitting his second home run of the game to tie the score at 5. It's the first multi-home run game of his career.

Hughes failed to finish the fifth inning for the seventh time this season, lasting just four-plus innings while giving up five runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out four.

"I wasn't able to hold a lead twice, something us starters take a lot of pride in. To not be able to do that is disappointing," Hughes said. "I'd rather it be this way than the other way around. The guys played well, and obviously we got a spark from Jeet today, and that was huge."

Jeter played a role in the ninth inning, too. After Gardner walked and moved to second on a wild pitch, Tampa Bay reliever Jake McGee intentionally walked Jeter. McGee struck out Cano to record the inning's first out, but he wasn't able to do the same to Soriano as the veteran knocked in the game-winning run.

The Yankees looked like the Yankees of old on Sunday. Former outfielder Hideki Matsui was in attendance to be honored before the game, Jeter hit a first-pitch home run, closer Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth and Soriano came through with the clutch hit, all of which added up to a much-needed victory.

"When I see Mariano pitching, and Jeter hitting and me, it feels like old times, but the present," Soriano said. "We played together for three years and now, after 10 years, we come back and we are still playing together. It's very good. It makes me feel a special place for those guys, because those guys are future Hall of Famers, and I feel blessed and lucky to play with those guys."

Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.