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Jeter homers for 3,000th hit, leads New York Yankees to 5-4 win over Tampa Bay Rays

NEW YORK — With the exception of David Price, who is now the answer to a trivia question he wanted nothing to do with, the Rays welcomed their latest place in history Saturday when Derek Jeter joined the 3,000-hit club in the rarest way, a home run.

But it was Jeter's 3,0003rd hit — his fifth of the game — they really could have done without. The Yankees' captain capped a remarkable afternoon by singling in the deciding run in New York's 5-4 victory.

"It's unfortunate," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "that he had such a wonderful day."

Jeter became the 28th player to reach 3,000, the first Yankee and the second, after former Devil Ray Wade Boggs, to do it with a home run (his to leftfield).

"I was excited," Jeter said. "But to be honest with you, I was pretty relieved. I've been lying to you guys for a long time saying I wasn't nervous and there was no pressure. I mean, there was a lot of pressure to do it here."

Two hits away after Thursday's game (and Friday's rainout), Jeter singled in his first at-bat, slapping Price's full-count pitch crisply between third and shortstop. When he came up next, in the third, with the Yankee Stadium sellout crowd of 48,103 in full roar, Price stepped off the mound.

The 25-year-old lefty has closed out the seventh game of the 2008 American League Championship Series, pitched in a World Series and started an All-Star Game, but, he said, the moment got to him. He was fully aware of how loud it was and noticed the special marking (J3) on the ball.

"I was just spinning out there," Price said.

With the count again full after seven pitches, Price looked up and saw a video board notation that he gave up a home run (and hit No. 2,530) to Jeter during his Sept. 14, 2008, debut.

"It was unreal," Price said.

The next pitch was a curveball, a bit unusual for Price in that situation — he didn't have his blazing fastball — and it wasn't a particularly good one.

And at exactly 2 p.m., with No. 2 on his back, Jeter got the second hit he needed, hitting a ball over the Yankee Stadium fence for the first time since June 12, 2010, tying the score at 1.

"He really knows how to do it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "This is a guy who's always been a big-time player in the big moment. And that's exactly what he did (Saturday)."

As Jeter made the first left turn on his celebratory trot, first baseman Casey Kotchman, who figured that on a single or a double he'd be the first to offer congratulations, had to improvise.

"(Jeter has) that flair for the dramatic," Kotchman said. "I wasn't going to be able to shake his hand, so I tipped my cap."

After the Yankees mobbed Jeter at home plate, the Rays, led by Johnny Damon, came out of their dugout to applaud. Jeter repeatedly acknowledged the crowd, as well as the Rays, during a four-minute celebration.

"Everything he's accomplished in the game is amazing," said Damon, a Yankees teammate from 2006-09. "That home run was something that's epic."

The fan who caught the ball, Christian Lopez, a 24-year-old from the West Point, N.Y., area, happily gave it to Jeter. The Yankees rewarded him with four suite tickets for the rest of the season and Jeter-signed bats, balls and jerseys.

"Right now, it's a little bit of a blur," Lopez said.

After the celebration was over, the game was still to be decided. The teams went back and forth a bit, with Damon, who wanted to play despite his still-bruised left hand, tripling and scoring to tie it at 4 in the eighth.

"I tried to ruin their parade, but I think I made Derek step it up a bit more," Damon said.

After Eduardo Nunez doubled to open the Yankee eighth and moved to third on a bunt, Jeter — who doubled in the fifth and singled in the sixth — stepped up against reliever Joel Peralta with the Rays infield in.

"It would have been really, really awkward to be out there doing interviews and waving to the crowd after the game if we had lost," Jeter said. "If we didn't win, it definitely would have put a damper on things."

But this was Jeter's day. He hit a 1-and-2 pitch through the middle for his third five-hit game.

"It was just one of those special days," Jeter said. "If I would have tried to have written it and given it to someone, even I wouldn't have bought it."

"Hopefully," Damon said, "he can act very well and he can play himself in his own movie. That's the type of day that this was."

Jeter homers for 3,000th hit, leads New York Yankees to 5-4 win over Tampa Bay Rays 07/09/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 9, 2011 11:49pm]
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