Jeter has no plans to let offseason begin
Captain opens scoring with two-run double in must-win Game 4
DETROIT -- Derek Jeter doesn't make a habit of glancing up at the video screens before his at-bats; there are too many flashing lights, bouncing advertisements and other things that distract him from hitting big league pitching.
But for some reason, Jeter peeked at Comerica Park's left-field video board before his third-inning at-bat on Tuesday and noticed he was hitless in nine previous at-bats against his opponent, the Tigers' Rick Porcello.
"I haven't had too much success off of him, I saw on the scoreboard," Jeter said. "I don't know why I looked up there, but I saw that."
So naturally, Jeter deleted that statistic from the rotation, ripping a two-run double to deep center field to chase home Jorge Posada and Russell Martin, staking starter A.J. Burnett to an all-important early lead.
It would be the Yankees captain's only hit of Game 4 of the American League Division Series -- a 10-1 win -- but before New York blew the contest open with six runs in the eighth inning, it stood as one of the biggest blows that sent the series back to Yankee Stadium.
"I actually thought he caught it," Jeter said, referring to center fielder Austin Jackson. "From my vantage point, all I saw was his back.
"That's why I stopped at second -- I thought he caught it and that was a double play. Austin has run down a few of my fly balls over the years, but fortunately for us, that one fell in."
One wonders how Porcello's mother, Pat, handled the development. After all, the New Jersey native mentioned a day earlier that he grew up with parents who were Yankees fans, adding, "Mom loves Derek Jeter. Might like him more than me."
The cast of characters has changed many times over since Jeter was a fresh-faced rookie dancing across the Porcellos' TV screen for the first time, getting a first taste of the October -- and, eventually, November -- stage he'd come to love.
But the Yankees still appreciate Jeter's example, down to their corporate win-or-nothing attitude. October counts above all else, and that was seen in his effusive praise of Burnett on Tuesday.
In short, throw the regular season out the window -- who cares about the Aug. 26 stinker at Baltimore, or June 8 against the Red Sox, or Aug. 3 at Chicago, or Aug. 20 at Minnesota?
Burnett allowed 30 earned runs -- yes, 30 -- over 6 2/3 innings in those starts, and right now it matters not a bit, to Jeter or anyone else in the clubhouse. Burnett kept them playing for another night here when the stakes were the highest.
"I think the thing you have to realize -- it doesn't make a difference what you've done in the past," Jeter said. "Every opportunity, especially in the postseason -- every opportunity you play, you have an opportunity to do something good."
True enough. This historic season, which saw Jeter become the 28th member of the 3,000-hit club and prove his own naysayers wrong by regaining his stroke after a stint on the disabled list, would be diminished in his eyes if the Yankees aren't standing alone by the end of the month.
It is impossible to think of the Yankees' AL Championship Series defeat last year in Texas and not see Jeter in the mind's eye, slumped at his locker near the shower stalls. His teammates dressed for a long flight home, but Jeter sat with his hat slightly askew, refusing to peel most of his uniform off before he made sure to comment that the season hadn't been good enough.
The Yankees have avoided that fate for at least two more nights, and they got there in convincing fashion.
But Jeter has been around long enough, seen enough of these postseason series, to realize that the nine-run margin of victory means nothing when the electric bill gets another jolt in the Bronx.
"We enjoy playing at home," Jeter said. "If you are going to win a championship, you have to play well at home. You have to play well on the road. We were fortunate to get a split here and bring it back to New York on Thursday.
"I'm pretty sure our fans will be vocal, excited, and so will the Tigers."
It will be zero-zero then, with simple rules: win or go home. It's no surprise to anyone, but Jeter has no intention of going home early. The problem for him is, the Tigers don't, either, and that's where Thursday comes in.
"I'm not a psychologist, but I've always been a believer -- win or lose -- it doesn't make a difference if it's 2-1 or 10-1," Jeter said. "They have a lot of guys over there with experience. I'm pretty sure they'll put this game behind them. We have to come ready to play."