Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jeter close to 3,000 as he heads back to Bronx

He will have four games at Yankee Stadium Thursday through Sunday to complete his march to 3,000 hits, a quest that was three hits short as he was playing Wednesday.
In his first three plate appearances against Cleveland Indians starter Justin Masterson, Jeter struck out in the first inning, hit a long flyout to center field in the third and walked in the sixth. In the eighth, he hit a double to right field for hit No. 2,997.
Jeter will play his first home game since June 13 when a weekend series with the Tampa Bay Rays begins. It's the final series before next week's All-Star break, after which the Yankees play their first eight games on the road.
The only real suspense in Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Indians was whether Jeter would play. Manager Joe Girardi said after Tuesday's game that he was strongly leaning toward giving Jeter a day off.
What Girardi knew for certain was that Jeter would lobby hard to remain in the lineup. That's exactly what happened.
What swayed Girardi was the chance to remove a potential distraction as soon as possible from a team locked in a tight American League East race with the Boston Red Sox.
"I got the sense that he's thinking about (reaching 3,000)," Girardi said of his conversation with Jeter. "And he wants to get this done with so he can go on and be Derek Jeter, not Derek Jeter pursuing 3,000 hits. I don't know if I'd want a day off to think about it."
Jeter said he wanted to keep playing because he still was getting comfortable after a 20-day stint on the disabled list that ended Monday.
"(Girardi) just told me what he was thinking, and I told him what I was thinking, and he came to a decision," Jeter said. "If I had 500 hits, I'd want to play."
The 37-year-old, who keeps insisting he wants to try to enjoy the time leading up to the moment, admitted Wednesday was different because, after two hits Tuesday, this was the first time the milestone seemed within reach in that night's game.
"I'll try to have as much fun with it as I can," Jeter said. And now he can focus on playing at home where, he said, "I'd love to do it."
Everyone, it seems, would prefer Jeter do it at home, though he said before Wednesday's game, "We're on the road. I want to get hits today."
"I think it would be a nice script if he gets it in front of his fans," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "I really hope he gets it in New York. It would be great for him, great for the game."

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