DETROIT — Well, in terms of trying to make a good first impression, it was a total crash-and-burn.
Joakim Soria gave up four runs on six hits in a disastrous seventh inning Tuesday night. He only got one out before Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus removed him from a game the Tigers would lose, 11-4, to the Chicago White Sox.
"Obviously, it wasn’t what I wanted," Soria said. "It was probably the worst outing of my career."
It was the third time the eight-year veteran with 177 saves had given up four runs in one outing. Soria got more outs in the pair of four-run innings he experienced in 2011 with the Kansas City Royals, though. So, the stats back him up. This was as bad as he’s been.
Since Soria brought a 2.70 ERA and an excellent 0.87 WHIP with him after spending the first half of the season with the Texas Rangers, it was very likely an anomaly.
"We certainly haven’t seen the real Joakim Soria," said Ausmus. "This is a very good relief pitcher — a closer having a very good year. I am not going to make a judgment on him based on one outing."
Soria, obtained from the Rangers for pitching prospects Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson, is supposed to be insurance for closer Joe Nathan and provide late-inning reliability.
However, in his first game at Comerica Park as a Tiger, he struggled mightily and heard boos.
"Yeah, that is baseball," Soria said of the fan response. "That can happen."
The top three hitters in Chicago’s lineup took him apart during three consecutive at-bats.
First, Alexei Ramirez crushed a three-run double on a fastball right down the middle. Then Jose Abreu launched a hanging slider before Adam Dunn crushed a changeup for back-to-back homers.
Soria had not allowed a homer since Sept. 22, and had surrendered only two homers in his last 68 outings covering 63 1/3 innings dating back to Aug. 28, 2011. In one inning on Tuesday night, he equaled those two homers given up over a nearly three-year span. Though, he missed 2012 after having Tommy John surgery that April.
Was it more a case of bad location than not having his best stuff?
"I want to believe that," Soria, 30, said. "I threw some balls down the middle."
He’s never been a power pitcher, throwing in the low 90s mph, and relies on command to be successful. He had very little of that in this one.
Soria received a Bronx cheer after getting Dayan Viciedo to ground out, but then Soria gave up consecutive singles and his night was over. The distance from mound to dugout must have seemed much longer than the 100 feet that it was. But at least the fans let up on the booing. It was, after all, Christmas in July that was being celebrated at the ballpark.
Soria’s first outing as a Tiger, on Saturday in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels, wasn’t very good either. He gave up one unearned run on two hits and walked one while again getting just a single out.
It’s still early, but Detroit fans are a bit leery of acquisitions of proven closers. Nathan got off to a slow start while blowing five saves and watching his earned run average soar like never before. He’s settled down this month, pitching another scoreless inning in Tuesday’s blowout, but heard plenty of boos before getting his act together.
The Tigers stayed with Nathan, and aren’t about to lose confidence in Soria after one start.
"We’ve got to hang with him," said catcher Bryan Holaday.
Soria waited for reporters on his clubhouse stool, facing the music like a pro. Some pitchers would’ve hid out in the meal room or weight room or taken a real long shower. But Soria sat there, having removed only his jersey and cleats.
"I don’t want to make excuses," he said. "…I will just try to shake it from my mind and come back tomorrow. Today was one of those days — it was bad.
"That doesn’t define my career. I am a fighter. I will try to get back on track and be what I am."
Tigers fans are counting on that.
Third baseman Nick Castellanos was a late scratch with a bruised right index finger, and shortstop Eugenio Suarez came out of the game with lower back tightness. Ausmus said both players are day-to-day, and both said they expect to be able to play Wednesday night.
Suarez said he "felt a little pinch" making a throw, and Castellanos added that "a bad hop came up and hit me in the finger" during batting practice.