NEW YORK — Rafael Soriano was right back out there doing the job he was hired for, two days after blowing a big lead in his eighth-inning slot.
Just like the New York Yankees drew it up when they signed him to a $35 million, three-year contract in the offseason, Soriano got the ball to Mariano Rivera with a scoreless eighth Thursday. He protected a one-run lead in a 4-3 win over Minnesota, their first game since the Twins rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win in extra innings Tuesday.
“A lot of people — the manager, the pitching coach, the GM — everybody comes to me and say, ‘Bad day, you know, it happen to everybody here. Come back tomorrow ready for the game,’” Soriano said.
Minnesota lost more than the game: Its heralded Japanese import, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, broke his lower left leg after Nick Swisher slid into him at second base while breaking up a double play in the seventh. The Twins said they believed the play was clean, and Swisher sought Nishioka out in the X-ray room after the game to apologize.
“He definitely eased my mind,” Swisher said. “He told me, ‘Hey, it’s not your fault. Don’t feel bad.’ I know I play hard, but you never want to go in there trying to hurt anybody.”
There was no immediate word on how long Nishioka would be out because of his broken fibula.
Derek Jeter passed Rogers Hornsby for 33rd place on baseball’s all-time list with two hits, and A.J. Burnett (2-0) improved to 7-0 in 12 April starts for the Yankees, allowing two runs on five hits in six innings.
No. 9 hitter Brett Gardner helped the Yankees manufacture their first run in the third, then drove in their final run in the fourth.
New York won two out of three in the rain-shortened series. The Yankees now head to Boston to face the rival — and winless — Red Sox.
After Wednesday’s rainout, manager Joe Girardi immediately gave Soriano another chance. Soriano allowed a leadoff single to Joe Mauer, then retired the Twins’ 4-5-6 hitters. Rivera pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save.
Soriano said his shoulder felt looser than it did Tuesday, when he walked three batters.
“His command was what we were accustomed to seeing, and that was the difference,” Girardi said.
Gardner led off the bottom of the third with a walk. He stole second on a 3-0 count, then moved to third on a groundout by Jeter. Swisher drove him in with a sacrifice fly to deep right-center, and New York had a 1-0 lead without a hit in the inning.
The Twins scored twice in the top of the fourth to take a 2-1 lead, but Francisco Liriano (0-2) walked Alex Rodriguez to open the bottom of the inning. After Robinson Cano singled, Andruw Jones drove in the tying run with a one-out double. The Yankees went back on top when Russell Martin’s grounder to first scored Cano. Gardner’s bloop single to right with two outs put New York up 4-2.
Liriano allowed four runs on four hits and three walks in five innings, striking out five.
Twins shortstop Alexi Casilla said Nishioka would have to learn how his new counterparts in America try to break up double plays — and to stay behind the bag while turning two.
“In Japan, they play clean,” Casilla said. “They don’t want to hurt anybody.”
The Twins manufactured a run of their own in the seventh off Joba Chamberlain to pull within 4-3. But Soriano and Rivera wouldn’t let them come all the way back.
NOTES: Jeter went 2 for 3 to reach 2,931 hits, passing Hall of Famers Hornsby and Jake Beckley. … Martin went tumbling head first over the barrier into the Twins dugout chasing a popup by Jason Kubel in the second inning. Minnesota pitching coach Rick Anderson and bench coach Scott Ullger caught him before he hit the floor. … Yankees RHP Kevin Millwood allowed two hits over five scoreless innings in an extended spring training intrasquad game. He struck out three and walked one in his second minor league appearance since being signed by New York late last month. … Jones made a sliding catch on Jim Thome’s popup down the left field line in the sixth, then in the same motion flipped the ball to Jeter, who was also chasing the play — drawing a smile from Burnett.