Jeter two away from No. 3,000
“Hurry up,” he said, smiling.
Jeter did his best Thursday night. He lined a sharp double on the first pitch he saw for hit No. 2,998, then kept grounding out as his New York Yankees lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-1.
“After the first one, I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t think it was attainable today,” Jeter said.
Jeter seemed eager to put the pursuit behind him—he never seems overly comfortable when he’s the focus, rather than the team. He swung at all 11 strikes he got from starter Jeff Niemann and reliever Kyle Farnsworth while going 1-for-5.
“Early on, I thought I’d get a few,” Jeter said.
Niemann certainly was a familiar face. Two years ago, Jeter got three hits in a game off the Rays’ right-hander to tie the Yankees’ all-time hit record set by Lou Gehrig.
Jeter’s mom and dad were in the crowd of 47,787 cheering when he came up in the first inning. The fans stood and chanted each time he batted after that, and many streamed toward the aisles after he grounded out to end the seventh. His fourth bouncer became the final out as the Yankees lost for the fourth time in five games and dropped below Boston in the AL East.
Jeter said a couple of teammates mentioned the milestone as the day progressed, but not too many.
“Maybe they don’t want to jinx anything,” he said.
Jeter is set to become the 28th major leaguer to reach 3,000 hits and the first while playing for the Yankees. The Hall of Fame is full of Bronx Bombers, but not Babe Ruth nor Joe DiMaggio nor Mickey Mantle nor Gehrig hit this mark.
Rays manager Joe Maddon counted himself among Jeter’s many fans.
“If anybody deserves to be the first to do it as a Yankee, it’s him. Not knowing the Babe personally, of course,” he said. “He really epitomizes what it means to be a Yankee, I would think.
“The Yankees for years have chased records and ghosts,” he said.
Among those who have followed Jeter the longest was Dick Groch, the scout who signed the future Yankees captain in 1992. Jeter was a first-round draft pick that year after being a Michigan prep star.
Groch was standing the near Yankees’ dugout while New York took batting practice and, while a Jeter montage played on the videoboard, marveled at all the 37-year-old All-Star shortstop had accomplished.
Groch has spent more than 30 years in major league scouting and still works for the Milwaukee Brewers. He offered a simple assessment at what he witnessed two decades ago while watching the skinny teenager with the “quick-twitch” reflexes.
“The best I’ve ever seen,” Groch said.
“I’ll never see another one.”
Jeter will try again tonight against rookie Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays as the four-game set continues.
“He’s probably going to do it in this series against us, but that’s OK. We can’t get caught up in that,” Maddon said.
Ben Zobrist homered, tripled and singled. With a chance to hit for the cycle in the ninth, he walked for the second time.
Niemann (4-4) and the Rays got off to a winning start in an 11-game stretch in which they face division rivals New York and Boston.