- Wallace Matthews, ESPN Staff Writer
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MILWAUKEE -- He's had 102 big-league at-bats now, and leads the New York Yankees in RBIs with 18 -- four more than Mark Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, who are making a combined $58 million this season.
He is second on the team in on-base percentage (.387), behind only Ichiro Suzuki. And on Friday, he hit the Yankees' first three-run home run of the season, the big blow in their 5-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
Is it safe now to assume that Yangervis Solarte is for real?
The 26-year-old from Venezuela, who spent eight years in the farm systems of two other organizations (Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers) before making the Yankees roster in his first camp with them, seems to have come through his first big-league slump -- actually, more like a slowdown -- to reclaim his status as one of the most productive bats in the lineup.
That's why there was a collective intake of breath when the Brewers' Carlos Gomez, having been sacrificed from second to third in the first inning, popped up out of a slide and came down firmly on Solarte's left foot. Solarte hopped around for a few seconds in obvious pain. But just like a couple of weeks ago, when Solarte got hit in what ballplayers like to call "a sensitive area" while running to first base, there was no serious thought of removing him from the game. The Yankees lineup, which managed just five other hits all game long, simply can't afford to be without him right now.
"Oh, God," Solarte said, recalling the first-inning encounter with Gomez's cleats. "I cried a little. He's a big guy. But I'm OK. Everything is perfect."
That it is. Batting left-handed, the switch-hitting Solarte jumped all over a first-pitch slider from Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo and rocketed it into the right-field seats in the fourth inning, his second home run of the season. Solarte was thrilled with his shot, as he should have been, but completely unaware he had jumped ahead of the rest of the team in RBIs.
“I don't know, I don’t know, I don't think about that," he said. "I just keep going. I want to just help the team. I love this, I’m getting a lot of experience right now. I need to learn from everybody.”
Solarte did go through an 0-for-13 slump, and it was easy to suspect the glass slipper had come off == that the rest of the league had found the holes in his swing and he would soon be back where he belongs, in Triple-A. But in the past four games, Solarte is 6-for-17 (.353) with five RBIs.
Manager Joe Girardi said he's not surprised by Solarte's success considering how well he hit in spring training, but acknowledged, "I look up and keep saying, this is the young man leading our team in RBIs, probably on-base percentage and he's obviously had a great first five or six weeks. He's played well and he deserves to be out there."
And no less an authority on consistency than Derek Jeter said, "He’s been one of our most consistent hitters. He went through a little stretch there where he scuffled, but that happens to everyone. Him and Jacoby (Ellsbury) have really been the only two guys who have been consistent for us throughout the first month of the season. He enjoys to be out there. He wants to play. He’s not intimidated by anything, and he’s done a good job.”
And earned the right to have people stop wondering when it all is going to end.