Yangervis Solarte was one of the Yankees’ biggest bright spots early on this season, coming out of nowhere to make the team as a 26-year-old career minor leaguer, grabbing hold of the starting job at third base, and hitting .300 with six homers and an .834 OPS in 49 games through April and May.
Unfortunately he’s hit just .162 in 22 games since June 1, including his current 3-for-41 (.073) slump, and today the Yankees decided to demote Solarte back to Triple-A.
Solarte’s overall numbers are still pretty solid with a .266 batting average, .343 on-base percentage, and .736 OPS, which is actually the fourth-best mark on the Yankees behind Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, and Jacoby Ellsbury (and ahead of, among others, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, and Ichiro Suzuki).
He deserves another shot at some point, but in the meantime the Yankees have called up 27-year-old career minor leaguer Zelous Wheeler, a utility man hitting .299 with seven homers and an .834 OPS in 66 games at Triple-A.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.