David Price never wanted a role on Derek Jeter’s highlight reel.
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There he was, though, serving up a home run Saturday for career hit No. 3,000 and stepping aside at the plate as the Yankees captain crossed.
”I’d rather not be the answer to that trivia question, but I am,” Price said. ”It’s tough. He’s one of the best players ever to play baseball. He was going to do it off of somebody and it just so happened to be me.”
No shame in that.
Besides, nobody else on Tampa Bay’s pitching staff could handle Jeter, either.
He raced right past the 3,000-hit plateau in a scintillating performance, going 5-for-5 with a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning that gave New York a 5-4 victory over the Rays.
”You would have liked for him to just have had two hits and that’s it, but it was a great baseball game,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. ”There was a great buzz to this place. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us today. I’m sure as the years go by we can look back on today and appreciate it even more.”
Jeter doubled and had three singles while starting a pair of Yankees rallies and finishing off their last one. He bounced a single through the left side his first time up to give him No. 2,999, then sent a no-doubt drive deep into the left-field bleachers off Price in the third inning.
That made Jeter the 28th major leaguer to get 3,000 hits, one of baseball’s biggest milestones, and the first to do it with the Yankees. Former teammate Wade Boggs was the only other player to reach the mark with a home run.
”I was excited, but to be honest with you, I was pretty relieved,” Jeter said. ”I’ve been lying to you guys for a long time saying I wasn’t nervous and there was no pressure. I mean, there was a lot of pressure to do it here.”
By the end of the day, Jeter had improved to 9-for-28 (.321) with two home runs against Price. Jeter also homered off him in the All-Star lefty’s major league debut in September 2008.
”I looked up at the scoreboard and I saw that right before I threw that last pitch. It was unreal,” Price said. ”I wanted to throw my game and it just didn’t happen.”
The latest shot by Jeter set off quite a celebration in the Bronx, with teammates mobbing him at home plate in a pack of pinstripes before he took a curtain call and saluted the sellout crowd of 48,103. The game was held up for 4 minutes, and Jeter also acknowledged Price and the Tampa Bay players who applauded.
”I was just spinning out there,” said Price, touched up on a full-count curveball. ”It’s all kind of a blur right now.”
What a moment for No. 2, though. His second hit of the game — and right at 2 p.m.
Moments later, a montage of messages from Jeter’s ex-teammates was shown on the big video board in center field. By the fourth inning, the screen showed DJ3K merchandise flying off the shelves at Yankee Stadium souvenir shops.
”It was a great moment for Derek and his family and the history of the Yankee franchise,” said former teammate Johnny Damon, who led the cheers from the Rays dugout. ”Derek stands for the good stuff in baseball. I’m proud of him. Everybody in this clubhouse respects Derek Jeter.”
The home run was Jeter’s third of the season and first at home since an inside-the-park shot July 22, 2010, against Kansas City. But the 37-year-old captain was just warming up in a turn-back-the-clock performance — and the Yankees needed all of it.
Eduardo Nunez, perhaps Jeter’s heir apparent at shortstop, doubled to start the eighth against Joel Peralta (2-4). Brett Gardner dropped down a sacrifice bunt to push Nunez to third and up stepped Jeter again, looking to cap his big day in style.
Tampa Bay brought the infield in and Jeter poked a two-strike pitch up the middle, giving New York a 5-4 lead and prompting another round of ”De-rek Je-ter!” chants. A sign in the stands read ”Mr. 3,000.”
”It doesn’t surprise me at all. Everything he’s accomplished in the game is amazing,” Damon said. ”Hopefully he can act very well and hopefully he can play himself in his own movie. That’s the type of day that this was.”
Mariano Rivera got three quick outs for his 22nd save in 26 chances, his first outing since blowing a save Sunday against the Mets. Rivera was out of action for three days because of a sore right triceps before pronouncing himself available to pitch Thursday night.
Curtis Granderson caught Kelly Shoppach’s long drive at the center-field fence for the second out in the ninth, and the Yankees held on after losing four of their previous five.
Granderson also had an RBI single to drive in Jeter in the fifth, and A.J. Burnett struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings. He left with a 4-3 lead, but Tampa Bay tied it in the eighth against David Robertson (2-0).
Damon led off with a triple and scored when Ben Zobrist grounded a single through a drawn-in infield.
”I was trying to ruin their parade,” Damon said. ”I just wish we could have won.”
B.J. Upton hit a two-run homer for Tampa Bay, and All-Star outfielder Matt Joyce also went deep. Price lasted only five innings, giving up four runs and seven hits while throwing 112 pitches.
”He usually mixes his pitches later in the game, but he started doing it early today,” Maddon said. ”You could tell that he just didn’t have his fastball.”
Notes: Jeter matched a career high with the first five-hit game for any player at the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. . . . Damon returned to the lineup, batting leadoff as the DH in his first game since getting hit on the left hand by a pitch from Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano on Wednesday.