When Yangervis Solarte went to his locker before the game today, he looked at the lineup to find out that he would be making his first career major league start. He then went around the room to have all the Yankees' players sign that lineup card.
The night turned out to be everything that Solarte was hoping it would be, as not only did he pick up his first career major league hit, but he ended up collecting three of the Yankees' seven hits in the Bombers' 4-2 win on Thursday night against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, their first win of the 2014 season.
With Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann out of the lineup for a scheduled rest day, it was the Ichiro and Solarte show in this game, as both players combined for five of the Yankees' seven hits, and also accounted for all five of their runs.
Trailing 1-0 for the first couple of innings, the Yankees were finally able to get on the board in the 3rd inning against Houston starter Brett Oberholtzer.
Brian Roberts flew out to open the inning, the Ichiro and Solarte followed with back-to-back singles, putting runners on the corners with one out. Brett Gardner's turn at the plate saw him single into right field, scoring Ichiro to tie the game while bringing Solarte over to third.
Oberholtzer then walked Derek Jeter to load the bases, then Carlos Beltran followed him -- still with only one out -- by hitting a sac-fly to deep center field to bring home Solarte, giving the Yankees their first lead of the season after just 21 innings.
Ivan Nova became the first Yankees starter to pitch with a lead this season -- both CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda gave up 1st inning runs in their starts and the Yankees were unable to work back from the early hole.
Nova did not have his best stuff for his first start of the season, after having a very good spring training. He walked five batters after just walking two in over 19 spring innings, but he was able to grind, compete and battle his way through 5.2 innings, giving up just two runs on six hits, with the walks peppered around.
Nova run into some early trouble in the 1st inning, continuing the trend in this series. Dexter Fowler and Robbie Grossman singled to open the inning, then Nova hit Jason Castro to load the bases. Jose Altuve grounded into a fielder's choice that got the out at second but not first, scoring Fowler.
The Astros' second run off Nova came in the 5th inning after Jonathan Villar doubled to open the frame, Fowler continued to be a Yankee-killer at the plate in this series by singling home Villar to make it a one-run ballgame, at 3-2.
Jeter picked up his first RBI of the season in the 5th inning when he slapped a single into right field, scoring Solarte, doubled a couple batters earlier. With the throw coming home for Solarte, it was instead cutoff to nail Jeter out between first and second.
The Yankees scored one more time, in the 7th inning. Ichiro doubled with two outs, then Solarte popped up a fly ball just in front of the pitcher's mound, and it dropped in for a base hit, with Ichiro hustling all the way around from second. Solarte finished 3-for-3 with a double, two singles, two runs scored, and a walk in the 8th.
And with a two-run lead heading into the 9th, David Robertson ushered in a new era of Yankees baseball, one in which Mariano Rivera was not there to pitch the 9th inning, and it was everything you could have hoped for. Robertson looked very sharp en route to setting the Astros in order.
The Yankees are now heading off to Toronto, where they will meet Masahiro Tanaka, who flew there earlier today to get settled in before his Major League debut Friday night. First pitch in Tanaka's debut is scheduled for 7:30 pm ET.