Padres third baseman says late wife inspired him on big day at plate
By Owen Perkins
Special to MLB.com |
DENVER -- Yangervis Solarte carried his teammates in Sunday's dramatic come-from-behind, 4-3 win over the Rockies, and his triumph over adversity uplifted his teammates every bit as much as the victory that snapped a five-game skid.
A year ago to the day, the Padres were in Colorado, getting beat up by the Rockies to the tune of an 8-0 loss and 16 strikeouts from Jon Gray -- who struck out seven in five innings Sunday before the rain cut his start shot.
After the game in 2016, Solarte learned that his wife Yuliette had passed away at the age of 31 due to complications from cancer.
Solarte went 2-for-5 Sunday, hitting a 443-foot solo shot -- his 17th of the season -- to break a 17-inning scoreless streak for the Friars, and later doubling and scoring the tying run en route to victory.
"It's a really special moment," Solarte said through team interpreter David Longley . "It's hard to put into words. Especially today. The 17th is the same day from last year, home run No. 17, and we were in the same place when I received the worst news of my life. It's really sad to think about, but I have to continue on. I know this is something that she could be happy about. I know I have to continue on for my three daughters, which is what she left me."
The Padres had been hoping for a hero, and there was no one better suited to fill the role than Solarte. The Padres were pulling for him on a challenging day, but it was Solarte who lifted the spirits of his teammates.
"I kind of gave him a squeeze on the arm before the game," manager Andy Green said. "I said I was thinking about him and what he's been through over the last year. That ball was absolutely annihilated to left field. I think there was some extra muscle behind that one. We were thrilled to see him play well today, and he was thrilled to get the win for the team, too."
Solarte said he'd been thinking about the anniversary of his wife's passing for several days as it approached, and he credited "God's strength" with getting him through the day.
"Things weren't necessarily going the way I wanted on the field, and then in this moment, everything comes together," Solarte said. "It's a reminder to be strong, be happy. I always say, 'Be yourself and transfer happiness. Be a happy person and be that type of teammate and things like this will happen.'"
His teammates couldn't have asked for more, in the clubhouse or on the field.
"It's hard for us to watch him playing," starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin said. "He hit a homer and he was pointing to the sky, to his wife. You have to appreciate the way he played today."
Solarte said he was just looking for a ball in the zone that he could hit hard and make good contact -- the kind of at-bat the Padres had been missing in their five-day funk.
"I knew I'd made good contact, and I knew it was gone, so I was just running, and I was overcome with a lot of emotion," Solarte said. "I almost cried right there. A lot of mixed emotions. Happiness and sadness and everything all in one in a moment like that, thinking about my daughters. It was a special moment.
Along with the "extra muscle" that drove the ball over the left-field fence, Solarte offered an extra salute to the sky as he approached home plate.
"I did that for my wife," he said. "She's our angel now, and she's looking after us and taking care of us throughout life."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.