Jeter ties Gehrig's all-time club record for hitsPosted: Updated:
(AP) - Derek Jeter peeked down at third base and saw ahuge patch of green grass. There it is, he thought, a perfectopportunity to break out of that slump. So, he took advantage of it. Jeter began the night with asurprising bunt single - and didn't stop hitting until he tied LouGehrig. With three hits on Wednesday, Jeter matched the New York Yankeesrecord of 2,721, a mark Gehrig held by himself for more than 70years. "It's just kind of mind-boggling to have my name next to his,"Jeter said on the field during a postgame television interviewpumped over the Yankee Stadium public address system. New York rallied past the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 on a three-runhomer by pinch-hitter Jorge Posada in the eighth inning. Thecomeback victory made it easier for Jeter to enjoy hisaccomplishment - he tied Gehrig with a seventh-inning single offrookie starter Jeff Niemann. "I'm happy that I was able to do it here at home," Jeter said."We had so many special moments across the street. Hopefully thisis the first of many memorable moments here at the new stadium." Moments after Posada's homer, Jeter received a booming ovationas he stepped to the plate in the eighth with a chance to break therecord. He walked against reliever Grant Balfour, bringing a loudchorus of boos from the crowd. The Yankees are off Thursday. Jeter gets his next chance to setthe mark Friday night at home against Baltimore. "I wish we were playing tomorrow," he said. Shut down by Niemann most of the night, the Yankees finished afour-game sweep and sent the AL champion Rays to their eighthconsecutive loss. It's their longest skid since dropping eightstraight in July 2007. Already on their feet in anticipation, fans at Yankee Stadiumlet loose with a roar when Jeter's sharp grounder inside thefirst-base line got by a diving Chris Richard in the seventh. Jeter's parents, watching from an upstairs box between homeplate and first base, raised their arms and exclaimed inexcitement. The ball was saved for Jeter as a souvenir. "I felt proud. I got goose bumps," said Posada, one of Jeter'sbest buddies. "It was a perfect moment." Jeter took off his helmet and twice waved it to the crowd of45,848 during an ovation that lasted about 2 minutes. Rays playersand coaches clapped as Jeter stood at first base. "I'm very happy for him," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said."He carries himself in a manner that's worthy of passing Gehrig." Jeter entered the game in an 0-for-12 slide, his longest hitlessstretch this season, but ended the skid right away. He noticed thatthird baseman Evan Longoria was playing deep, so Jeter dropped downa beautiful bunt single leading off the bottom of the first. Hebeat the play without a throw, prompting the first of severalstanding ovations. "He was smart. He took what they gave him tonight. That's thetype of player he has been his whole career," Yankees manager JoeGirardi said. "When you put his name next to Lou Gehrig, it'samazing. It was emotional for me because I wanted it so bad for himtonight." With cameras flashing all around the ballpark on every pitch toJeter, he grounded out in the third and drove a ground-rule doubleto center in the fifth. On his first chance to tie Gehrig, Jeter came through in fittingfashion - with an opposite-field hit on the first pitch. "You don't want to say it was a relief, but afterwards I waspretty excited that I was able to do it tonight," Jeter said."I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't thinking about it becausepretty much everywhere I've gone this entire homestand I've beenhearing on the street, in cabs, at the stadium, 'When you gonna geta hit, when you gonna get a hit? I kept telling them, 'I'mtrying."' In the middle of the eighth, the large video board in centerfield showed a replay and flashed "Congratulations Derek!" "He starts the game off, dropping the bunt down just to get ahit. I mean, nobody else thinks about that except Derek. He shockedthe world up there doing that," longtime teammate Andy Pettittesaid. "I'm just excited to see him break it and get it over withand now he can head on toward 3,000." Gehrig's final hit came on April 29, 1939, a single against theWashington Senators. The Iron Horse had held the club record forhits since Sept. 6, 1937, when he passed Babe Ruth. Gehrig's Hall of Fame career ended suddenly in 1939 because ofillness. Two years later, he died at 37 from the disease that wouldlater bear his name. "I know a lot about the history," Jeter said. "What he stoodfor, being a captain, he's probably one of the classiest people toever play the game."