NEW YORK — Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig atop the
Yankees hit list and New York rallied for a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays
on Wednesday night thanks to a three-run homer by pinch-hitter Jorge Posada in
the eighth inning.
Jeter got three hits to match Gehrig with 2,721 in a
Yankees uniform, a mark the Hall of Famer had held by himself for more than 70
years. Jeter had a chance to break the record, but he walked against reliever
Grant Balfour after New York's comeback in the eighth.
"He's one of the classiest people to ever play this
game," Jeter said during an on-field, postgame television interview pumped over
the stadium public address system. "It's just kind of mind-boggling to have my
name next to his."
The Yankees are off Thursday. Jeter gets his next chance
to break the record Friday night at home against Baltimore.
"I have a pretty good feeling that it's going to happen
pretty quickly," manager Joe Girardi said.
Shut down by rookie Jeff Niemann most of the night, the
Yankees completed a four-game sweep and sent the AL champion Rays to their
eighth consecutive loss. It's their longest skid since dropping eight in a row
in July 2007.
Already on their feet in anticipation, fans at Yankee
Stadium let loose with a roar when Jeter's sharp grounder inside the first-base
line got by a diving Chris Richard in the seventh.
Jeter's parents, watching from an upstairs box between
home plate and first base, raised their arms and exclaimed in excitement.
"This is definitely a memorable moment. We had so many
great moments in the old stadium. This is the one I'll remember in this stadium
so far," Jeter said.
Jeter took off his helmet and twice waved it to the
crowd of 45,848 during an ovation that lasted about two minutes. Rays players and
coaches clapped as Jeter stood at first base.
"I really didn't know what to do because we were losing
at the time and I didn't want to disrespect Tampa," Jeter said. "I never dreamt
about all of this."
After entering the game in an 0-for-12 slump, his
longest hitless stretch this season, Jeter broke out of the rut with a bunt
single toward third base leading off the bottom of the first inning. He beat the
play without a throw, bringing a standing ovation from the crowd.
"That's why I bunted in the first inning. I needed to
get one hit, right?" Jeter said.
With cameras flashing all around the ballpark on every
pitch to Jeter, he grounded out in the third inning against Niemann and drove a
ground-rule double to straightaway center in the fifth.
On his first chance to tie Gehrig, Jeter came through in
fitting fashion — with an opposite-field hit on the first pitch.
In the middle of the eighth inning, the large video
board in center field showed a replay and flashed "Congratulations Derek!"
"What an ovation I got from the fans," he said. "I've
been trying to do it for them."
Jeter also swiped second base in the first inning for
his 300th career steal, which ranks second on the franchise list behind Rickey
Gehrig's final hit came on April 29, 1939, a single
against the Washington Senators. The Iron Horse had held the club record for
hits since Sept. 6, 1937, when he passed Babe Ruth.
A key throwing error by Richard helped the Yankees rally
in the eighth. One of Jeter's best buddies, Posada, connected off Balfour with
one out to give New York a 4-2 lead and raised his arm as he rounded first base.
Jonathan Albaladejo (5-1) pitched two scoreless innings
for the win.
With star closer Mariano Rivera getting a night off,
Phil Coke struck out pinch-hitter Gabe Kapler with a runner on for his second
Lance Cormier (2-3) took the loss.
With the Yankees limiting Joba Chamberlain's workload
this season, the 23-year-old right-hander was pulled after three innings for the
third straight start.
Jeter was back at shortstop after a night as the
designated hitter. … B.J. Upton (sprained left ankle) started in CF for the
Rays but was lifted in the sixth and replaced by Fernando Perez. Upton made a
three-base error when he missed Robinson Cano's deep drive with two outs in the
second, but Niemann escaped unscathed. Upton charged in for a basket catch to
end the fourth. … Yankees reliever David Robertson, shut down Tuesday because
of stiffness in his right elbow, is headed to see noted orthopedic surgeon Dr.
James Andrews on Thursday, Girardi said.