'Fire, anger or joy, he shows it all out there,' Green says
By Nathan Ruiz
SAN DIEGO -- Yangervis Solarte started his Saturday at Petco Park fiddling with the music selection in the Padres' clubhouse, setting his team's energy level for the upcoming doubleheader against the rival Dodgers.
Once on the field, he did much of the same, providing his trademark enthusiasm throughout the day as the Padres defeated Los Angeles in both contests.
San Diego took the first game, 6-5, on Solarte's walk-off home run in the ninth inning, the first of his career, before taking the nightcap, 7-2. The winning blast followed what could've been a letdown for San Diego, as Justin Turner's pinch-hit homer in the top of the ninth tied the game at 5. Instead, Solarte saw it as a moment of opportunity.
"When Turner got a homer, I said, 'Stay focused. Maybe we'll get a walk-off,'" he said. "And that happened. Wow."
Solarte called the homer his No. 1 moment in his four-year Padres tenure. He watched himself on Petco Park's scoreboard when he rounded the bases. As he neared his teammates surrounding home, he delivered his signature alligator clap, elevating his leap for the occasion.
"He can dig himself, and it's genuine, too, so it doesn't bother anybody," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He's such a good-spirited guy, good-hearted, everybody enjoys being around him.
"He's not afraid to show some emotion on the field. Fire, anger or joy, he shows it all out there almost every single day."
As much as the moment energized Solarte, it might have done more for those in matching uniforms.
"He brings energy every day, and in baseball, that's a difficult thing to do, especially when you're a guy that plays every day," said Clayton Richard, the Padres' starter in Game 1. "To bring energy like he does every day consistently, that's huge."
Even before his game-winning shot, Solarte's effort enlivened the Padres. Several smooth plays at shortstop gave him reason to flash a smile or share a laugh with second baseman Carlos Asuaje despite going hitless in his first four at-bats.
That is arguably Solarte's best trait: Even on the days he struggles, he doesn't allow that to keep him from leading and laughing.
"Day in, day out, he's always going to be Solarte; he's going to bring energy," Asuaje said. "He's a major force in our lineup. He's a dude that always brings it every day."
Solarte has impressed while roving around the infield, as well, recently starting at each of the four infield spots in a four-game span. Playing shortstop for the first time since 2014, Solarte has yet to make an error in 128 innings at the position.
"You look up, he's probably exceeding everybody's expectations but his own," Green said.
Although he was out of the lineup in the second game, Solarte's spark did not dwindle. He and Jose Pirela cracked jokes from the bench, livening up the dugout.
As a pinch-hitter in the seventh, he roped an RBI single, giving San Diego its sixth run in an eventual win.
"That fun element carried the team," Green said. "It sounds elementary, but it's a big deal in a doubleheader when you're exhausted and you've been out there. Guys had a lot of fun."
That fun started and ended with Solarte.
Nathan Ruiz is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.