NEW YORK -- Yangervis Solarte doesn't want to look up. The numbers are blasted in high definition, each one taller than his 5-foot-11 frame, and they scream this fact: Solarte is the top hitter in the American League, owning a .336 batting average coming into play on Thursday.
"I don't even want to talk about it," Solarte said, waving off a questioner at his Citi Field locker. "If you want to go to the stadium, you love to play, you don't worry about the numbers. If you see the numbers, it's like, 'Oh my God.' It's difficult for me. I don't want to see the screen."
Solarte's average is the fourth-best in the Majors coming into Thursday, trailing the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki (.391), the Phillies' Chase Utley (.343) and the Padres' Seth Smith (.336). Solarte also leads the Yankees with 23 RBIs and has a .414 on-base percentage, good for third in the AL.
"It's become a running joke pretty much in our dugout about [Solarte being] the best player I've ever seen at this point," Brian Roberts said. "It's a great story. It's fun to watch. To do what he's doing, it's tough to do. It's tough to hit .350 in this league for two months. He's been huge for us."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that his initial scouting report on Solarte was that he "could have an impact as an extra player," being a switch-hitter who played second and third bases well. Wearing No. 89 as a non-roster invitee in Spring Training, the Yankees were thinking of Solarte as a utility player, not a league-leading hitter.
"I'm not sure anybody would have predicted the impact he's had in the first six weeks," Girardi said. "But if you watched him day in and day out in Spring Training, we're seeing a lot of the same of what we saw."
And now Solarte's biggest challenge may be keeping his focus on the pitcher, ignoring the larger-than-life numbers being broadcast above.
"The screens, they're so horrible," Solarte said. "I love to just play. I want to play."
Jeter's last ride: A subway story
NEW YORK -- This marks Derek Jeter's final ride for a regular-season Subway Series game, but if you want to track the Yankees captain's last trip on an actual New York City subway, you'll have to roll the clock back much further.
Jeter has been on subway trains for commercial shoots in the recent past, but asked to produce a date for his last paid ride, Jeter thought for a few moments in the visiting dugout at Citi Field and offered: "1996 -- the day of the ticker-tape parade. [Jim] Leyritz told me he'd give me a ride, and we wound up taking the subway. It was us and three million Yankees fans, going to the parade."
Leyritz says that the story is true. It was the morning of Oct. 29, 1996 -- three days after the Yankees celebrated their championship over the Atlanta Braves. The teammates both overslept, and Leyritz told Jeter to meet him in the lobby of his apartment building at East 64th Street and 2nd Avenue.
Surveying the scene on the street, Leyritz said that they quickly realized Manhattan gridlock would not allow them to reach the Canyon of Heroes by vehicle.
"We walked out and told the cops, 'Look, we've got to get to the parade,'" Leyritz recalled. "They said, 'You're not going to get down on the street. The only way you're going to get down is the subway.'
"So they escorted us down to the subway; it was my wife, my 2-year-old, Derek and I. We got on the subway, and the best thing was when we got on, people looked at us and were like, 'Why are you guys on the subway?' I said, 'This is the only way to get there!'"
Leyritz said that they boarded at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue, then rode the 4 train all the way downtown to City Hall. The commuters on board probably noticed Leyritz's cowboy hat first, but attention quickly turned to Jeter, who would soon be named the American League's Rookie of the Year.
"They didn't bother us bad," Leyritz said. "They were doing chants and having fun with it. It was packed. People were used to seeing me on the subway, because I took it every day. I think he was a little nervous. It was an extra-long ride; we got delayed a few times because of train traffic.
"This was before he became Derek Jeter -- he was just starting to be that. His notoriety, people were more enamored then, not obsessed. I always say to Derek, 'Dude, you can't go out in public anymore.' Back then, they were embracing it more. It was really fun. We were part of the fans."
• Ichiro Suzuki (sore lower back) was considered to be available off the bench for Thursday's game. Ichiro has not played since he attempted a diving catch on Sunday against the Brewers at Miller Park.
• With Wednesday's shutout of the Mets, Masahiro Tanaka joined Andy Pettitte as the second Yankees starter with a shutout in the Subway Series. Pettitte's came on June 30, 2002, at Yankee Stadium, in an 8-0 victory.
• On this date in 1941, Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak began with a single off Eddie Smith in a 13-1 loss to the White Sox at Yankee Stadium.