Miss a pivotal game? Not Derek Jeter
Was anyone really surprised to see Derek Jeter in the Yankees’ lineup Thursday night? When last the Captain was seen Wednesday night he was hobbling off the Fenway Park diamond after aggravating a left ankle bone bruise trying to beat out a double play grounder. He practically had to be dragged into the dugout by manager Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue, so it was by no means at all stunning to see his name atop the batting order for the series finale.
Jeter had told reporters after Wednesday night’s game that he expected to play Thursday night. “Great,” he told Girardi when asked how the ankle felt before the game. Girardi may not have fully believed Jeter, but he sure wanted to. The manager played it safe and kept him off the field as Jeter got half a day off, sort of, as the designated hitter.
Good thing, too, because the Yankees needed the run-scoring hit he gave them in the seventh inning of a 2-0 victory that certainly fit into the must-win category of games. The Orioles had already won a 14-inning marathon against the Rays earlier in the day, so until the last out of the game at Fenway the Yankees were actually a half-game out of first place.
Jeter miss a must-win game? Not on your life. Fact is, Jeet thinks all games are must-win games.
The Yankees played .500 ball on the trip through Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Boston with a 5-5 record, which is only mediocre but since they lost three of the first four games on the trek they consider .500 acceptable. Another positive was that the Rays’ loss at Baltimore coupled with the Yankees’ victory dropped Tampa Bay four games out of first, which means the Yanks cannot fall behind the Rays in the standings in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium that begins Friday night with the marquee matchup of lefthanders CC Sabathia vs. David Price.
Phil Hughes pitched 7 1/3 terrific innings for his second victory on the trip and 15th of the season. With new daddy Dustin Pedroia unavailable, the Boston lineup was even weaker than normal, and Hughes made sure an upset was out of the question.
However, with the Yankees again struggling with runners in scoring position (1-for-9), Hughes did not have much margin for error. The Yankees got only one run out of a bases-loaded, none-out situation in the fourth against lefthander Felix Doubront on a sacrifice fly by Andruw Jones. Jeter’s RBI single three innings later was welcomed by Hughes, who walked one batter and struck out seven.
It was a brutal series for the Yankees in the clutch. They somehow won two of the three games despite getting only two hits in 34 at-bats (.059) with runners in scoring position in the series. Jeter had both hits. He also doubled in two runs Tuesday night. Thursday night’s hit was career No. 3,283, which tied DJ with Willie Mays for 10th place all-time. Think of it; with one more hit Jeter will knock the Say Hey Kid out of the top 10.