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Saturday, April 12, 2014
Soriano, Suzuki, Betances shine in loss

By Kieran Darcy

NEW YORK -- The Yankees are off to a slow start in the home run department, but they did hit one Friday night.

Alfonso Soriano smacked his second of the season, leading off the bottom of the second inning against Jon Lester. It gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead before CC Sabathia gave up a pair of long balls in the sixth, the difference in a 4-2 Boston Red Sox victory.

Alfonso Soriano, Jon Lester
Alfonso Soriano's solo shot in the second put the Yankees ahead 1-0.
Soriano finished 2-for-4 on the night -- striking out in the fourth, grounding out in the sixth and slapping a single to right field in the eighth. He's hitting just .216 this season, but if you go back to last July 26, the day the Yankees reacquired him from the Chicago Cubs, Soriano now has 19 homers and 53 RBIs in just 68 games.

Entering Friday's game, Soriano had the most home runs in the majors and tied for the second-most RBIs since that day, according to data provided by the Elias Sports Bureau.

Soriano also passed Hall of Famer Duke Snider for sole possession of 50th place on the career home runs list with homer No. 408. Not too shabby for the 38-year-old!

Unfortunately, the Yankees managed just seven hits against Lester and two relievers. Through 11 games, they've scored just 39 runs -- tied for ninth in the American League -- and they've hit just seven homers, tied for 10th in the AL.

"We don’t have everyone clicking at this point yet," manager Joe Girardi said. "Some days we’ve swung the bats better than others. Lester’s tough, there’s no doubt about it, and I thought he threw the ball particularly well tonight and had really good command."

Age before beauty: Five of the Yankees' seven hits on the night came from players 38 or older.

Derek Jeter, who will turn 40 in June, had an infield single in the third inning, and 40-year-old Ichiro Suzuki went 2-for-4 with an infield single in the fifth and a hard single to right field in the seventh.

Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro Suzuki went 2-for-4 and scored a run in the Yanks' 4-2 loss.
Suzuki made just his fourth start -- and first on this homestand -- playing left field in place of Brett Gardner. The reason? Suzuki was 15-for-48 (.313) lifetime against Lester, while Gardner is 2-for-11 (.182).

It's a small sample size, but Suzuki is now batting .444 (8-for-18) on the season.

Kelly Johnson drove Suzuki home for the Yankees' second run of the game. He had been 0-for-14 against Lester prior to that at-bat in the seventh inning.

Johnson is one of several new players in the Yankees lineup and said the new guys might be pressing a little bit as they try to make a good first impression.

"I don’t think that anybody’s gonna admit it. I think it’s hard to really say that, but it certainly is human nature," Johnson said.

"When [offensive production] comes, it’s gonna come in bunches," Johnson added. "I think we’ll make up for it."

Young gun: After Cesar Cabral walked the leadoff man in the top of the eighth, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances each pitched a shutout inning in relief of Sabathia.

Betances was particularly impressive, striking out the side in the ninth. He froze David Ross and Jackie Bradley Jr. on 96 and 95 mph fastballs, respectively, before getting Jonny Gomes to wave and miss at an 83 mph knuckle-curve.

"It was good to go out there and just be able to throw strikes," Betances said. "I just wanna do the job every time I go out there and just get confidence, keep gaining confidence in myself."

Betances has not given up a run in four relief appearances this season. In four innings, he has allowed just one hit, striking out eight batters and walking just two. He credits, in part, a mechanical adjustment he made after his second outing.

"I felt like in Toronto I was rushing [forward]," Betances said. "Just trying to stay more back. Same thing with the off-speed [pitches], staying more back. I think that helps get the ball down."