Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jeter Still Has It

Say what you will about Derek Jeter's defense, but when it comes to his offense, he's as good as ever.

Jeter went 3-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 16 games and scored the 1,500th run of his career, and the Yankees rolled to a 12-3 victory over the Rangers Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have won 16 of 20 and overtook the Rangers for the best record in the AL at 31-21.

Jeter joined Ken Griffey Jr., Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez as the only active major leaguers to score 1,500 runs, scoring the go-ahead run in the Yanks' seven-run fourth inning. The only other players to score 1,500 runs as Yankees are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle -- that's some pretty special company.

"Everything that he's doing, he's playing at a very high level," manager
Joe Girardi said.
"He is really, really good right now."

That includes his defense. He's made only two errors all season and is making all the plays. His range does not appear to be an issue at the moment.

Jeter seems to be leading off every game with a hit, getting a leadoff hit in 10 of the last 12. His multi-hit game Tuesday was his seventh straight, the longest of his career.

On the season, Jeter is hitting .319 with 68 hits, 33 runs, seven homers and 25 RBI in 50 games.

He seems to be in the middle of everything and Tuesday was no exception.

With the Yankees trailing 3-2, Melky Cabrera led off the seven-run fourth with a walk and advanced to second on Brett Gardner's sacrifice. Jeter followed with a walk before Johnny Damon's RBI single tied the score and put runners on the corners.

Rangers starter Vicente Padilla then hit Mark Teixeira for the second consecutive at-bat, angering the first baseman. But Teixeira would get his revenge, cleanly taking out Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler with a slide to break up what could have been an inning-ending double play by A-Rod and allowing Jeter to score the go-ahead run.

Teixeira plays with passion and is leader. He takes charge of the defense and does anything to make a play on offense.

This play seemed to spark the Yankees as Robinson Cano followed with an RBI single to knock Padilla from the game. Jorge Posada followed with an RBI single against Derek Holland, then Hideki Matsui hit a three-run homer to give the Yanks a secure 9-2 lead.

Posada added at two-run homer in the sixth and Gardner had an RBI single and scored on a balk in the second.

It was an impressive display by the offense, which had 13 hits, including 11 singles, and has had at least 10 hits in eight of the last nine games. Cano, Posada and Matsui -- the 5, 6 and 7 hitters -- combined to go 7-for-15 with seven RBI. That kind of production for that part of the order will provide a lot of protection for A-Rod.

The Yankees needed the big offensive outburst because A.J. Burnett did not have his best stuff. His curve was non-existent and he lost control of his fastball in the third, leading to Nelson Cruz's three-run homer that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead.

Burnett settled down after the big fourth inning and gutted it out, allowing eight hits and four walks in seven innings to earn his first home win with the Yankees. He retired the side in order just once, but struck out eight and threw 71 of 110 pitches for strikes.

The only real down note came in the fourth when Posada sailed a throw into center while trying to catch Elvis Andrus stealing, ending the Yankees' record errorless streak at 18 games.

But it didn't matter much. On this day, not even Jose Veras pitching the ninth could spoil the win.

Runners In Scoring Position
6-for-14 (.429)
136-for-490 (.278)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
70-for-222 (.315)

Up Next
Wednesday vs. Rangers, 7:05 p.m., YES
Scott Feldman (4-0, 3.91 ERA) vs. Andy Pettitte (5-1, 4.10)

It's all about Pettitte stiff lower back. He's had two good bullpen sessions since his start Friday and says he's fine. Count on Girardi checking one more time, just to make sure Pettitte is 100 percent.

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