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Saturday, April 5, 2014
Ellsbury, Solarte overshadowed standouts

By Wallace Matthews

TORONTO -- On a normal night, Jacoby Ellsbury's three-hit, two-double, two stolen-base night would be back-page material. So would rookie Yangervis Solarte's three RBIs on a pair of doubles. How about Ichiro Suzuki, a Hall of Famer reduced to the role of bench player, going 3-for-5 and raising his early season batting average to .556?

But this was anything but a normal night, and, unfortunately for Ellsbury, Solarte and Ichiro, they finished in a triple dead heat for third-place money.

All three were overshadowed by Masahiro Tanaka's gutsy performance in his first major league start and the hamstring injury that might set Mark Teixeira down for a lengthy period of time.

Still, all three had nights worth mentioning, and, by the way, did I mention Ellsbury's sparkling sliding catch on Dioner Navarro's bloop to shallow center in the sixth?

"Obviously, I’ve had to see it from the other side a number of times," manager Joe Girardi said of Ellsbury. "He did everything tonight. He hit. He stole bases. He made a great catch in center field, and that’s why we went and got him, because that's what he's capable of doing. He’s a game-changer."

As for Solarte, he started the game at second and moved to third in the second inning when Teixeira was forced to leave and Kelly Johnson had to move from third to first.

"He's stepped in and done a really good job," Girardi said. "We saw it in spring training, but you never know what’s going to happen when the second and third deck get out there and the bright lights turn on and you’re in a big league game. But he has picked up right where he ended in spring training."

Dean Anna also made his first big league start tonight, going 1-for-4 with a walk and playing a solid shortstop in place of Derek Jeter, who had a scheduled day off. Anna made a sparkler of his own, ranging to his right to snag Adam Lind's grounder and spinning and firing to Teixeira for the out.

Super-sub: Johnson, who is not only the starting third baseman but also the emergency infielder at the three other positions, will now take over the first-base job until Teixeira comes back -- if it is soon -- or until the Yankees make a personnel move if Tex winds up on the disabled list, which seems likely.

Asked if he was prepared for the shift, Johnson said, "I'm going to have to be. Just like anything else, I'm going to get more comfortable as I play more over there."

Johnson also had two hits tonight, including a seventh-inning triple.

Tipping point: The Yankees teed off on Jays starter Dustin McGowan, with five hits in the first inning, and both McGowan and manager John Gibbons thought they knew why: They believe McGowan was tipping his pitches. "If he was, I didn't notice," said Ellsbury, who doubled and singled before McGowan was lifted in the third.

High-water mark: The Yankees had 16 hits tonight, the most of the brief season so far. Obviously.

Low voltage: The Yankees, sometimes known as The Bronx Bombers, have yet to hit a home run this season.