(Corrects fifth paragraph to show Indians have won five of past 18 games against Yankees in Cleveland.)
Jeter reentered the lineup at Progressive Field in Cleveland last night for the first in a three-game series against the Indians, the same team he strained his right calf against after getting his 2,994th hit on June 13. New York went 14-4 during his absence.
The 37-year-old Yankees captain, who was voted to the American League All-Star team for the 12th time two days ago, is seeking to become the 28th player in Major League Baseball history with 3,000 hits and the first to reach the milestone in a Yankees uniform.
“I was nervous at the beginning,” Jeter told reporters. “Three weeks is definitely a long time to be out. I felt better as the game went on.”
New York dropped to 50-33 and the Indians improved to 45-38 with their fifth win in their past 18 meetings in Cleveland with the Yankees. Cleveland is first in the American League Central division, one game ahead of the Detroit Tigers, while New York leads the Boston Red Sox by 1 1/2 games atop the AL East.
Jeter, who was hitting a career-low .260 over 262 at-bats this season when he injured his calf, batted first last night after completing a two-game rehabilitation with New York’s minor-league affiliate in Trenton, New Jersey.
He reached first base in the opening inning on an error by third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and advanced to second when Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin walked Curtis Granderson.
Two innings later Jeter sent a fly ball to center field and he grounded out in the sixth with the game still scoreless.
A Nick Swisher double scored Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano in the seventh. Cleveland made it 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on a two-out single by Shelley Duncan that scored Grady Sizemore. The Indians then went 4-2 ahead when Austin Kearns followed with a three-run homer, his first since Aug. 22, when he was with the Yankees.
Jeter lined out in his final at-bat in the eighth before Granderson hit his 23rd home run of the season to make it 4-3.
The Indians closed out the scoring in the bottom of the eighth on a two-run homer by Carlos Santana, his 13th of the season. The teams meet again today and tomorrow.
If he fails to reach 3,000 hits in Cleveland, Jeter will have a chance to get to the mark at Yankee Stadium in four games against the Tampa Bay Rays beginning July 7, New York’s last series before the All-Star break.
A.J. Burnett gave up four runs, all earned, in seven innings to drop to 8-7. Tomlin improved to 10-4 after surrendering two earned runs in seven innings.
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