Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jeter homers for 3,000th hit, goes 5 for 5 in win

NEW YORK (AP)—Derek Jeterhomered for his 3,000th hit and raced right past the milestone in a scintillating performance Saturday, going 5 for 5 with a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning that gave the New York Yankees a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Jeter doubled and had three singles while starting a pair of Yankees rallies and finishing off their last one. He bounced a single through the left side his first time up to give him No. 2,999, then sent a no-doubt drive into the left-field seats off Rays ace David Pricein the third inning.

That made Jeter the 28th major leaguer to get 3,000 hits, one of baseball’s biggest milestones, and the first to do it with the Yankees. Former teammate Wade Boggs was the only other player to reach the plateau with a home run.

It also set off quite a celebration in the Bronx, with teammates mobbing Jeter at home plate in a pack of pinstripes before he took a curtain call and saluted the sellout crowd of 48,103. The game was held up for 3-4 minutes, and Jeter also acknowledged the Rays players who applauded from their dugout.

Moments later, a montage of messages from ex-teammates, including Andy Pettitte, was shown on the big video screen in center field. By the fourth inning, the screen showed DJ3K merchandise flying off the shelves at Yankee Stadium souvenir shops.

The home run was Jeter’s third of the season and first at home since an inside-the-park shot July 22, 2010, against Kansas City. But the 37-year-old captain was just warming up in a turn-back-the-clock performance—and the Yankees needed all of it.

Eduardo Nunez, perhaps Jeter’s heir apparent at shortstop, doubled to start the eighth against Joel Peralta) (2-4). Brett Gardner dropped down a sacrifice bunt to push Nunez to third and up stepped Jeter again, looking to cap his big day in style.

Tampa Bay brought the infield in and Jeter poked a two-strike pitch up the middle, giving New York a 5-4 lead and prompting another round of “De-rek Je-ter!” chants.

Mariano Riveragot three quick outs for his 22nd save in 26 chances, his first outing since blowing a save Sunday against the Mets. Rivera was out of action for three days because of a sore right triceps before pronouncing himself available to pitch Thursday night.

Curtis Granderson caught Kelly Shoppach’s long drive at the center-field fence for the second out in the ninth.

Granderson also had an RBI single to drive in Jeter in the fifth, and A.J. Burnett struck out nine in 5 2-3 innings. He left with a 4-3 lead, but Tampa Bay tied it in the eighth against David Robertson (2-0).

Jeter matched a career high with the first five-hit game for any player at the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.

The last player to reach 3,000 hits, Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, did it with his third hit in a five-hit game on June 28, 2007.

Jeter’s run-up to 3,000 turned into a winding, drawn-out journey, beginning with a calf injury June 13 that landed him on the disabled list for 20 days.

Six hits shy of the milestone, he returned in Cleveland on the Fourth of July and managed three hits in a three-game series.

Back home Thursday against Tampa Bay, Jeter laced the first pitch he saw for a double but then came up empty the rest of the night, disappointing a sellout crowd that came to see history.

The teams were rained out Friday and settled on a Sept. 22 makeup date because the Rays didn’t want to play a split doubleheader this weekend. That left Jeter with only two more home games to reach the milestone before the All-Star break—the Yankees begin the second half with an eight-game road trip.

Lined up to pitch for the Rays? A pair of aces in Price and James Shields

Pressure on Jeter, even in July? You better believe it.

But he delivered all day, even stealing a base Saturday after entering the game in a 4-for-18 slide.

“Nobody better in the clutch,” said good buddy Jorge Posada the first to greet Jeter with a bearhug after his home run. “He looks forward to that moment and today was a perfect example.”

Before the first pitch, thousands of fans lined up at ticket windows outside Yankee Stadium hoping to get in—even though an electronic sign read: Today’s game is sold out. Many of them were trying to exchange rain checks from Friday night, but there was no room in the packed house.

B.J. Upton(notes) hit a two-run homer for Tampa Bay, and All-Star outfielder Matt Joyce(notes) also went deep. Price lasted only five innings, giving up four runs and seven hits.

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