Jeter Is Within Two Hits of 3,000 After Going 1-for-5 in Loss

Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees
Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees tries to run out a single in the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on July 7, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Photographer: Nick Laham/Getty Images

Derek Jeter said his 3,000th career hit was a possibility last night, when a leadoff double left him two shy of the milestone. After grounding out in his final four at-bats, he remains two away.

“Early on I thought I was going to get a few, but that wasn’t the case,” Jeter said at Yankee Stadium after a 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Jeter, 37, is seeking to become the 28th player in Major League Baseball history to collect 3,000 hits and the first to do it as a member of the Yankees.

Jeter said he got encouragement from his teammates before the game and thought the mark was within reach after hitting a double to centerfield on the first pitch he saw last night.

“After the first one, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it was attainable,” Jeter said. “A couple guys in the dugout mentioned getting three hits. It was the first time they really said anything about it.”

Jeter grounded out in his next four at-bats as many in the sellout crowd of 47,787 stood, cheered and took pictures during each of his plate appearances. He’s now 4-for-18 since coming off the disabled list on July 4. Jeter had been sidelined for three weeks with a strained calf muscle and the Yankees are 1-3 since his return.

“We all want him to get the hit, but we want to keep winning ballgames too,” Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said in the locker room. “But it’s inevitable it’s going to happen.”

Jeter’s Ground Outs

Jeter grounded out to third base to end the second inning with two runners on base. He was denied a hit in the fifth inning as Rays third baseman Sean Rodriguez made a diving stop of a ground ball down the line and then jumped to his feet to throw Jeter out.

“He probably took one away from him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s unfortunate.”

In his fourth at-bat, Jeter grounded out to shortstop to end the seventh inning, prompting some fans to head for the exits. Jeter came up a final time with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning after Brett Gardner reached base on a wild pitch after striking out. Jeter again grounded out to third base to end the game.

Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann held the Yankees to six hits and one run over 7 1/3 innings, while Tampa Bay had 10 hits and scored five runs off the Yankees’ Bartolo Colon. Ben Zobrist went 3-for-3 with a triple and a home run, and B.J. Upton added a two-run homer and finished with three runs batted in.

Boston Leads

The loss dropped the Yankees to 51-35 and a half-game behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League Eastern Division. The Rays are 49-39, 3 1/2 games behind Boston in third place.

Girardi said Jeter’s chase of the 3,000-hit milestone hasn’t been a distraction in the Yankees’ dugout.

“It’s business as usual. The atmosphere really isn’t any different,” Girardi said. “Now I can’t tell you it won’t be like that after the next one.”

Jeter and the Yankees host the Rays again today, when Jeremy Hellickson is scheduled to be Tampa Bay’s starting pitcher. Jeter is 1-for-2 all-time against Hellickson.

The Yankees also host the Rays on July 9 and 10, their final games before baseball’s All-Star break.

If Jeter doesn’t reach the milestone before the break, he may not get it at Yankee Stadium, as New York has an eight-game road trip in Toronto and Tampa, Florida, from July 14-21. No player has reached 3,000 hits at Yankee Stadium, old or new.

“This isn’t the final destination for him, there’s plenty more in the tank,” Swisher said. “I can’t wait to see it. I’m excited for history to happen. Then again, we’ve got to start winning some games.”

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