The Padres' 'El Nino' providing relief to Padres drought
Solarte hitting .over .300 since taking over at 3B
By Bill Center
San Diego Padres |
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
Southern Californians are hoping the El Nino conditions building along the equator in the eastern Pacific Ocean will provide a measure of relief this winter from the drought that has been gripping the West for the past four years.
But the Padres are already getting relief from their El Nino. That would be Yangervis Solarte, who the Padres have taken to calling El Nino (much to his embarrassment).
"I don't know where El Nino came from," Solarte said Wednesday afternoon after going 3-for-3 with a double and his second home run in as many games in the Padres' 3-2 win over Atlanta at Petco Park.
"I was 'Slowarte.' I guess this is better," said Solarte, who had a hand in all three Padres runs, in addition to making several solid plays at first in the finale of the Padres series sweep."
Over the last two games of the sweep, Solarte went 4-for-7 with two homers and five RBIs. On the season, he is hitting .268 with nine homers and 47 RBIs.
And since he took over as the Padres every-day third baseman on July 22 when Will Middlebrooks was optioned to Triple-A El Paso, Solarte has hit .337 (31-for-92) in his past 24 games with six doubles, two triples, four homers and 14 RBIs.
"Solarte is coming into his own," said manager Pat Murphy of Solarte. "He's starting to believe he can play. He has great energy. He even gives the perception he can run, although he can't."
"It definitely helps to be playing consistently, and playing in one spot [third base] has helped," Solarte said. "I try to be positive and play hard. Energy is part of who I am."
Solarte came to the Padres with right-handed pitcher Rafael De Paula from the Yankees before the trading deadline in 2014. The trade sent Chase Headley to New York.
Solarte, a 27-year-old Venezuelan, has had number similar to Headley's (.276, nine HRs, 50 RBIs) this season, but at a fraction of the cost.
Solarte, who will not be arbitration until after next season, is making $516,400 this season. Headley is making $13 million.
FROM THE SCORECARD
• The three-game sweep of the Braves was the Padres third of the season, and it was the first since they swept the Rockies in a three-game series May 1-3 at Petco Park. This marked the third straight year that the Padres swept the series from the Braves at Petco Park, marking it the first time the Padres have swept an opponent three straight times at home since they did it against Cincinnati at Qualcomm Stadium from 1993-95.
• Right fielder Matt Kemp went 1-for-4 Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 12 straight games. The hitting streak is the longest by a Padre this season -- Solarte had an 11-game hitting streak from July 24-Aug. 5 -- and the longest since OF Will Venable hit in 13 straight games during the 2013 season. Kemp is hitting .383 (18-for-47) during the streak with a double, a triple and three home runs for 11 RBIs. The first cycle in Padres history came in the seventh game of the streak, which is Kemp's longest since he hit in 16 straight games last season.
• Right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley struck out the side around a walk Wednesday to get the win and even his record at 2-2 while lowering his earned run average to a season-low 2.70. Kelley has allowed one run on 10 hits and three walks with 26 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings over 18 appearances since June 25. Since May 17, Kelley has been scored upon in only three of his 32 appearances.
• Although he is expected to soon lose playing time to rookie Travis Jankowski, center fielder Melvin Upton Jr. in on a bit of a run. Upton Jr. was 1-for-4 with a steal and a run scored Wednesday, a game after having the seventh multi-homer game of his career -- and his first since June 15, 2013. Since July 7, Upton Jr. has hit .293 (24-for-82) with three doubles, two triples and four home runs for 11 RBIs.