Bronx, NY—A capacity crowd of 48,103 came to Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon to see Derek Jeter get his 3,000th Major League hit. The fans in the ballpark saw that and more. They saw Jeter hit safely five times, for only the third time in his lengthy and highly successful career.
Although Jeter and his career accomplishment were foremost in the mind of most in the ballpark, the win was crucial to both teams. The Yankees, after losing four of its last five games, are now in second place in the American League East. The Rays, in third place are hoping to make a move forward toward Boston and New York.
Although Yankees starter A.J. Burnett fanned nine batters and surrendered only three hits in 5.2 innings, the two long balls he gave up were costly. Rays outfielder Matt Joyce drove a 2-1 pitch into the seats in right-field to score the first run of the game in the second inning.
A lead-off walk to Ben Zobrist and the 15th homer of the year by B.J. Upton accounted for the next two runs scored by Tampa.
New York’s first two runs came in the third. Appropriately, a solo home run by Jeter scored the first Yankees run. Tampa starter David Price threw an off-speed pitch on the count of 3-2. Tampa manager Joe Maddon said he was not surprised that Jeter’s 3,000th hit was a homer, “He got a breaking ball on a full count that was up a bit. He [Jeter] looks good right now. He’s really playing at a high level. I think that time off did him well.”
The second run of the inning scored more slowly. Curtis Granderson drew a base on balls. Mark Teixeira followed with a single to left. Granderson scored on a single by catcher Russell Martin to left.
The Yankees took a 4-3 advantage with two runs in the fifth. Jeter again began the offensive attack with a double, hit # 3,001, to begin the inning. Jeter scored on a single by Granderson. The next batter, Teixeira, singled Grandy to third. He scored the fourth New York run on a fly ball to left by Robinson Cano. Price was removed from the game after the fifth.
Former Yankee, Johnny Damon tripled to open the eighth for Tampa. A single by Zobrist tied the contest at 4.
Jeter capped off his perfect day with the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the eighth. Eduardo Nunez led off the inning with a double. He moved to third on a sacrifice by Brett Gardner. Jeter’s single up the middle scored what became the winning run.
Mariano Rivera set down all three Tampa batters in the ninth to earn his 22nd save of the season.
Although the game will always remain memorable for Yankees fans because of Jeter’s historic accomplishment and the outstanding manner in which it was done, the win could be crucial in determining which of the A.L. East teams make the playoffs.
The final game of the series and the Yankee home-stand will pit CC Sabathia (12-4) against James Shields (8-6).