Derek Jeter needed just 74 hits to get to 3,000 when the 2011 season started, but a sluggish start and a calf injury slowed his pursuit of the milestone.
Finally, on July 9, with the Yankees facing the Rays in The Bronx, Jeter singled to lead off the bottom of the first off left-hander David Price to get to 2,999.
And then in the bottom of the third, he sent a 3-2 curveball into the seats for No. 3000. It was Jeter’s first homer at Yankee Stadium in nearly a year and it was part of a 5-for-5 afternoon that allowed him to reach the milestone in style.
Jeter also provided the game-winning hit in a 5-4 victory over the Rays.
“If I would have tried to have written it and given it to someone, I wouldn’t have even bought it, to be honest with you,” Jeter said. “It was just one of those special days.”
He became the first Yankee to get to 3,000 hits and just the 28th in MLB history.
And he was able to do it at home, something Jeter admitted was important to him and he had just two games remaining on the Yankees’ homestand before the All-Star break and a road trip.
“I have been lying, saying I wasn’t nervous and no pressure to do it here,” Jeter said. “But there was a lot of pressure to do it here. It wouldn’t have felt right doing it somewhere else.”
Jeter said he was looking for a fastball from Price, but instead got a 77-mph breaking ball, which he crushed for a 420-foot homer that made it into the first row of bleachers in left field.
That’s where fan Christian Lopez got his hands on it after it sailed over Tampa Bay left fielder Matt Joyce.
“I knew he wasn’t going to catch it,’’ Jeter said of Joyce. “But I didn’t know it was a home run.’’
Jorge Posada led a crowd of teammates and coaches greeting Jeter at home plate and Jeter later got the ball back from Lopez.
But Jeter’s day was not done.
He added a double in the fifth and singled and swiped second in the sixth. To finish the occasion, Jeter came to the plate again in the eighth with the score tied, Eduardo Nunez at third and one out.
“There was less pressure there than the first at-bat,” Jeter said. “I have been in those situations.”
With the infield in, Jeter bounced a single up the middle and Mariano Rivera recorded the final three outs for the save.
“It would have been awkward if we had lost,’’ Jeter said. “That was going through my head in the first at-bat, we needed to win the game. After the home run I wasn’t thinking about 3,000. If we didn’t win it would have put a damper on things.’’
He made sure they didn’t.
“To do it in that fashion is incredible,” Russell Martin said. “I guess that’s what legends are made of.”