Nobody does it like Jeter
Move over, Craig Biggio, and make room for Derek Jeter.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Earlier, I wrote the same lede for a blog when Jeet cracked a home run for his 3,000th hit, matching Hall of Famer Wade Boggs as the only players to do that. Well, Biggio had been the only player to get his 3,000th hit in a five-hit game, and now he is not alone with that distinction.
That was the sort of day Jeter had Saturday at Yankee Stadium. He will have no problem years from now remembering July 9, 2011 because it was one of the best games of his career. One thing everyone agrees about Jeter is that he is all about winning, so the most satisfying of the quintet of hits he had was the single through a drawn-in infield in the eighth inning that scored Eduardo Nunez with the deciding run of a 5-4 victory over the Rays. If DJ had not been thrown out at second base trying to steal for the third out of the inning, it would have been a perfect day.
As it was, the day was magnificent for the Captain. It could not have been much better. A homer for 3-ding-ding, a threat for the cycle, the first five-hit game at the current Stadium all adding up to a Yankees victory. Type a script of this and send it to a Hollywood producer, and it would be torn up with the executive saying, “Now give me something plausible!”
“You don’t need a script,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s already movie-ready.”
“I wouldn’t even believe it,” Jeter said.
Yet it all happened in real life, not a movie. Jeter provided so many highlights in the past at the old Stadium and is doing the same at the new Stadium. The 2009 World Series was a starter, and Saturday was a continuation.
“This has to be number one, the first one to do it for the New York Yankees,” Mariano Rivera said. “When you think that [Babe] Ruth and [Yogi] Berra and [Joe] DiMaggio and [Mickey] Mantle did not do it, all Hall of Famers. I hope he has another one or two thousand more.”
Said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, “Derek has always played with a relentless, team-first attitude. And that mind-set has helped sustain this organization’s objective of fielding championship-caliber teams year after year. It’s only fitting that he reach 3,000 hits during a victory against one of our American League rivals. Today we celebrate a remarkable individual achievement by one of the game’s greatest ambassadors. On behalf of the entire New York Yankees family, we congratulate Derek on his historic accomplishment.”
A crowd of 48,103 has an indelible memory to cling to, especially a guy from upstate New York named Christian Lopez, who got his hands on the 3,000th-hit home run and didn’t let go of the ball until he handed it to Jeter after the game.
“He actually took it away from his girlfriend, so he has some making up to do,” Jeter said.
After Jeter singled in the first inning, the anticipation so intensified that the dugout became over-populated. It seemed Girardi that everyone on the field level of the Stadium was in the dugout.
“It was like when we had one out to go in the 2009 World Series,” Girardi said. “The dugout was packed. He really knows how to do it, a big-time guy in the big moment.”
Waiting for Jeter as he crossed the plate was close buddy Jorge Posada, the first to hug the 28th member of baseball’s 3,000 Hit Club.
“It was very spontaneous,” Posada said. “I told him I was proud of him. I was so happy for him that I got emotional. He looks forward to things like this. There is nobody better in the clutch. You guys saw that in post-season play.”
“The best thing is how he prepares himself day in and day out,” said Rivera, who was able to chalk up his 22nd save by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth after Jeter’s eighth-inning single put the Yankees back into the lead. “To be honest, I was expecting a triple.”
That was the hit Jeter needed for the cycle. He had doubled in the fifth. To Jeter, the best part of the fifth hit was the RBI attached to it.
“It would have been awful to be out there on the field after the game being interviewed and waving to the crowd if we had lost,” Jeter said.
The Captain opened up a bit after the game, admitting that his answers to questions leading up to 3,000 hits were not entirely truthful, particularly those with regard to the pressure he felt about getting the milestone hit at Yankee Stadium.
“I have been lying to you, saying there was no pressure, but I felt a lot of pressure trying to do it here,” Jeter told reporters. “It would not have felt right if it happened somewhere else. I’m pretty happy the way it went.”
Jeter also said he changed his approach at the plate somewhat since coming off the disabled list earlier this week and was not as patient. He walked one time in five games. Jeter battled Rays lefthander David Price in the first inning running the count to 3-2 before hitting a single off a 95-mph fastball.
“He could have thrown the ball in the dugout, and I’d have swung at it,” Jeter said.
Price tried something different in the third when the count to Jeter again went to 3-2. He threw a curve that Jeter drove into baseball history. Price, the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award in 2010, is a very quality pitcher to have given up a 3,000th hit. Only one player, Dave Winfield, Jeter’s favorite growing up, got his 3,000th off a future Hall of Famer, Dennis Eckerlsey, in 1993. The only Cy Young Award winner other than Eck to give up a 3,000th career hit was Frank Viola, to Rod Carew in 1985.
“I knew [left fielder Matt Joyce] wasn’t going to catch it,” Jeter said, “but I didn’t think it was going out. To be honest, I was relieved.”
DJ said he had never envisioned what the 3,000th hit would be and that “I didn’t care as long as [a fielder] didn’t catch it. I just didn’t want it to be a slow roller that they would replay forever.”
Knowing Jeter, he would like that game-winner in the eighth to be replayed alongside No. 3,000.