Bottom of lineup helps Yanks finish on top

The Yankees’ scuffling offense got a lift from the bottom of the lineup Thursday night as two players who rode the bench previously made the most noise in getting the team its first victory of the 2014 season.

Rookie Yangervis Solarte had a dream of a game in his first major-league start as he collected his first hit, run and run batted in from the 9-hole. A switch-hitter, Solarte got the start at third base against Astros lefthander Brett Oberholtzer as he is being used in a platoon with lefty-swinging Kelly Johnson, who started the first two games.

One night after getting his first sip of big-league play with a pinch-hit appearance and an inning in the field Wednesday night, Solarte went 3-for-3 with a walk Thursday night to help the Yankees toward a much-needed W. A 26-year-old veteran of eight minor-league seasons, Solare doubled and singled twice, scored two runs and drove in one.

His RBI was a bit of a gimme from the Astros on miscommunication in the infield as his pop between the mound fell among three fielders in the seventh inning. With two out, Ichiro Suzuki was running hard from second base and scored, which got Solarte into the RBI column.

Ichiro’s start in right field was something of a hunch for manager Joe Girardi and by doing so may have caused a dilemma. Suzuki had a double and a single and scored two runs. He has been relegated to bench player in a crowded outfield, but with Alfonso Soriano 0-for-12 to start the season perhaps Ichiro can work himself back into the mix.

Suzuki and Solare combined for five of the Yankees’ seven hits and all four runs. At the top of the order, Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter each had a two-out RBI hit. The middle of the order continued its chilly ways except for a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran, who was the designated hitter to open the spot for Ichiro and give Soriano some time in left field.

The Yankees matched the improved offense with sound defense. The infield turned four double plays behind starter Ivan Nova, who overcame five walks, two hit batters and a wild pitch over 5 2/3 innings to notch the winning decision. Nova was inconsistent, but he made key pitches when he needed them.

Adam Warren and Sean Kelley were impressive in relief stints before David Robertson began his new role as closer following the retirement of the best in the business, Mariano Rivera. It was a performance that would have made Mo proud. D-Rob retired the side in order with one strikeout to finish off a bullpen effort in which it retired the last 11 Houston batters in a row.

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