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TB@NYY: Jeter picks up hit No. 3,000 with a homer

NEW YORK -- After Derek Jeter fouled off consecutive full-count pitches in the third inning on Saturday, the Yankee Stadium organist tickled the ivories to the tune of "Let's-Go, Yank-ees!" Impulsively, the 48,103 fans who made up the sold-out crowd responded by chanting "De-rek, Je-ter!"

On a picture-perfect afternoon in the Bronx, the Yankees and Jeter were one and the same.

Jeter acted on cue, recording his 3,000th career hit on the very next pitch by lacing a David Price curveball to left field for a solo home run. After becoming the first player in franchise history to reach the 3,000-hit plateau, Jeter recorded the third five-hit game of his career, going 5-for-5 and carrying the Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Rays.

"If I would have tried to have written it and given it to someone, I wouldn't have even bought it, to be honest with you," Jeter said of the day's events. "It's just one of those special days. Coming in, I've been lying to you guys saying I wasn't nervous and there was no pressure. There was a lot of pressure to do it here. I thought eventually I would get a few hits, but I felt a lot of pressure to do it here while we're at home. So I have been lying to you for quite some time."

Jeter joined Craig Biggio -- the last Major Leaguer to join the 3,000-hit club -- as the only other player to record at least five hits in the game during which he reached the milestone. And he joined Wade Boggs as the only other player to hit a home run for his 3,000th career hit.

Jeter singled in the first inning for career hit No. 2,999 before his third home run of the season -- and his first at home since July 22, 2010 -- tied the game at 1. His leadoff double two innings later started a two-run inning that put the Yankees ahead, and he hit his second single of the game in the sixth.

And then -- with a hit that would have been the highlight on any other day, under any other circumstance -- Jeter singled up the middle, driving home Eduardo Nunez for the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, becoming the first person to record five hits in one game at the new Yankee Stadium.

Starter A.J. Burnett played his part on the day, striking out nine and allowing three runs on three hits over 5 2/3 innings, and the bullpen helped limit the Rays' bats to one run the rest of the way. Mariano Rivera pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to record his 22nd save.

"It's Jete's day, man," Burnett said. "It don't matter anything else -- if I stayed in, if I gave it up or who won or whatever, if Mo blows a save. It's about Jete today, and he deserves it."

Jeter led off the game with an eight-pitch at-bat that had the crowd booing and cheering with each ball and strike, culminating with a 3-2 single to the left side that moved the captain one hit away from the milestone.

A solo home run by Matt Joyce in the second inning made it 1-0 Rays by the time Jeter stepped back in the batter's box, his first chance at history a potential swing away.

A batboy came out to hand home-plate umpire Jim Wolf specially marked balls to be used for Jeter's 3,000th hit. In the visitors' bullpen in left field, Rays relievers emerged from a tiny back room to get a glimpse at history. In the visitors' dugout, Rays players all leaned on the railing with anticipation.

On the other side, the Yankees' dugout was more fit for a big moment in the fall, not the heat of the summer.

"It was kind of the scene when we had two outs in the World Series in 2009 -- all of a sudden, it was packed," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It was great, because you see all of the people that respect what Derek has done over his career and really care about him."

Some 400-plus feet away in the bleachers, 23-year-old Christian Lopez stood on his feet like everyone else inside the park, happy to have the chance to witness something done just 27 times before in Major League history.

Eight pitches later, Lopez was taking a picture before he suddenly owned a piece of that history, all because of something that had not happened in the previous 391 days: Jeter hit a fair ball over the Yankee Stadium wall.

Jeter's last home run at Yankee Stadium had been an inside-the-park shot, but this one left no doubt.

Jeter's 3,000th hit cleared a pair of railings in left, sending Lopez and those around him into a frenzy. The lucky fan dropped his cellphone and ducked for cover, his father jumping on top of him for protection, although, as a former defensive tackle at St. Lawrence University, Lopez was no stranger to contact.

Five innings later, when Lopez was shown on the scoreboard saying he would give the ball back to Jeter, he received a Yankee Stadium moment of his own. The crowd cheered the fan's generosity, and it was announced that he would receive four tickets to each home game for the rest of the season, playoffs included.

"I didn't even think of it," said Lopez, whose girlfriend, Tara Johnson, had gotten him the tickets as a birthday present. "It didn't cross my mind until they asked me what I wanted. And I said, 'A signed ball would be nice, and to meet him.' That's about it. It wasn't about the money; it's about a milestone. I'm not going to take that away from him.

"I met him, we took a couple pictures. Very nice guy. I was starstruck, I guess. I met a couple other people, like Reggie Jackson, which was pretty cool, and Jay-Z. People I would never think to meet, now I'm shaking their hand. Crazy."

As chaos surrounded Lopez in the stands earlier, a mosh pit had nearly erupted near home plate, with relievers running out from the Yankees' bullpen to join the fun.

Jorge Posada was the first player to greet Jeter, embracing his teammate of 17 years with a hug.

"That was obviously very spontaneous," Posada said. "I didn't have any idea what was going on. Everybody ran out there and gave him a big hug. I told him I was proud of him. I got a little emotional because I was so happy for him. I did get emotional."

Alex Rodriguez, who will likely record his 3,000th career hit within the next two seasons, grabbed Jeter shortly after.

"You're amazing, bro," Rodriguez recalled saying.

Others followed, and soon Jeter found himself in the position he so often loathed, attention fully on him, as he took a curtain call and embraced the warm ovation.

Price, now the answer to a trivia question, left the mound and stood near second base as Rays teammates joined in applauding Jeter.

"That was his time right there," Price said. "I didn't want to be standing out on that mound."

A two-run homer from Casey Kotchman that gave the Rays a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning nearly spoiled the afternoon, as did Ben Zobrist's RBI single in the eighth that tied the game at 4.

But with one on and one out in the eighth, Jeter came to the plate in a much more comfortable situation, the score tied and a big hit needed.

"There was less pressure in the eighth than in those first two at-bats," Jeter said. "I've been in those situations before, but I hadn't been in this situation. Like I told you, I was lying. I don't know if you guys bought it when I told you anyway.

"After we got rained out, I was asked a question about the rainout earlier and I tried not to answer it. After we got rained out, I was like, 'Now we've only got two games.' So there was a lot going into my first at-bat. I was able to relax a little bit after my first hit. The situation in the eighth, I've been in a lot of times."

Jeter came through one more time on Saturday, connecting on a 1-2 splitter from Joel Peralta and putting the Yankees ahead for good with his 3,003rd career hit.

Said Rivera, who ended the game an inning later: "I hope he has another thousand or two more."

The postgame handshake line took a detour north, not far from Jeter's spot at shortstop. He slapped hands with teammates before giving a television interview in front of the Yankees' dugout.

No one had left, and, within minutes, the same sound from more than two hours earlier began to fill the Stadium again, with Jeter acknowledging the praise by taking his hat off and saluting the fans mid-interview.

"De-rek, Je-ter!" they shouted in unison, and this time no organist was needed. Comments