Walking into the Yankees clubhouse after this game, Kevin Long’s words were stuck in my head. Just a few days ago, before a game in Detroit, the Yankees hitting coach seemed to suggest something like this was coming.
“(Derek Jeter)’s not hot, he’s not cold,” Long said. “He just hasn’t went through a streak yet. He’s going to get hot and go through a hot streak.”
Jeter had a hit in every game this road trip. He raised his batting average from .242 to .276, and in the past two games he more than doubled his extra-base hits for the season. Last night he drove a ball off the wall in left field, and tonight he went deep to right-center in back-to-back at-bats, once to pull the Yankees within a run, then to put them in front.
“I think we all needed a day like this,” Long said tonight. “It feels good to have Jeet come out and swing the bat the way he did. The other day in Detroit he hit those three balls good. He’s had a couple of games since then that have been really good, and then today was the icing on the cake. We’ll take it from here.”
When Jeter’s first home run got just over the wall in the fifth inning, Joe Girardi turned to Long on the Yankees bench and said, “We’re going to have to talk about him again.” Last week, Jeter grew so tired of discussing his swing and his numbers that he began refusing to discuss those things before games. He would talk at length postgame, but not pregame. He’d already dismissed some of the mechanical changes he’d worked on this spring, and he was trying to get himself comfortable. He decided that discussing it pregame was contrary to that goal.
“When you come here, you’re going to try to not think about things and try to stay positive,” Jeter said. “It’s not the first time we’ve scuffled a little bit, but you still have to have confidence… Sometimes the results can be frustrating, but going in there every day you have to have confidence that you’re going to be able to produce. It doesn’t always work out, but it’s starting to.”
A seven-game hitting streak doesn’t mean Jeter’s out of the woods, and a two homer game doesn’t mean that he’s finishing hitting the ball on the ground, but Jeter’s finally gone through a little bit of a hot streak, and it’s surely taken some of the pressure and — maybe — a little bit of the attention off the Yankees captain.
“You want everything to happen in one day, but it doesn’t always happen in one day,” he said. “It takes a little while. I’m well aware that you have to have patience.”
Here’s Jeter’s postgame interview.
• The Yankees kind of owed CC Sabathia this win. He’d missed out on so many wins earlier this season, he deserved to sneak a win this afternoon. Sabathia said his fastball command was actually better than last time, but walks and errors put the Yankees in an early 4-0 hole. “Just try to leave it right there, make it so that’s all they get,” Sabathia said. “These guys are going to battle, put together good at-bats. They did, and we ended up coming back.”
• More proof the Yankees offense is making up for those blown win opportunities earlier this season: The Yankees have scored 12 runs in a game three times, and Sabathia’s gotten the win each time.
• Both Sabathia and Francisco Cervelli said his changeup command was a significant problem early. “Just calm down because it was real tough the first inning,” Cervelli said. “And then the wind was too crazy. Changeup crazy. But he made adjustments. Everybody knows who CC is already.”
• Curtis Granderson hit his 11th home run of the season, most in the American League. He didn’t hit his 11th homer last year until August 14, in his 91st game of the season. Tonight’s was his fifth home run against a left-handed pitcher, which matches a career-high for home runs off lefties in a season.
• Jeter facts: His first home run ended a streak of 259 at-bats without a home run. It was the second longest homer-less streak of his career. He went 311 at-bats without one in 1997… This was the second longest he’d ever gone before hitting his first home run in a season. He went 119 at-bats without one this year and 128 without on in 2008… He got his first steal tonight in his 30th game. That’s his second longest wait before stealing a bag. His longest was 38 games, also in 2008… This was his second four-hit game of the season. He had only one four-hit game last year.
• Cervelli hit the first grand slam of his career and the first he could remember since High-A in 2007. “I’m close to Alex now,” he said. “Lou Gehrig and Manny. I’m going there now.”
• Girardi said he addressed today’s defensive mistakes with the team. The Yankees played an ugly game early. “I told our club, ‘We have to stop making it so hard on ourselves,’” Girardi said. “We’re a good team, but we’re making it harder on ourselves. We’re capable of playing better.”
• Sabathia had two of the Yankees season-high four errors. On the first one, it seemed like the grass might have played a part in Sabathia being forced to make a tougher than expected play. Not the case. “I was just rushing,” he said. “I had way more time than I thought, I just didn’t pick the ball up.”
• The other two errors belonged to Brett Gardner, who failed to scoop the ball while fielding a single, and Alex Rodriguez, who made a nice play at third and then made a bad throw to first. “That play has to be made 10 out of 10 times,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just kind of an unusual play. I was almost getting ready to throw the ball to a kid in the stands.”
• Rodriguez and Long have been working on his leg kick, which has gotten too high. Both were encouraged by his at-bats today. “I was happy with all my swings today,” Rodriguez said. “I wish I’d get three or four hits, but the bottom line is we won a game. Overall, my balance was good, my strike zone control was good, and if I do that, there’s going to be a lot of damage.”
• Long, Girardi and Jeter all scoffed at the idea that the Yankees are too reliant on home runs. “Come on, this needs to stop,” Long said. ” You score runs however you’re going to score runs. We have guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, and because we’re strong and they hit a ball good, we talk about that’s the only way we can score runs. We need to do a better job, yes, with a man on third, less than two outs, of getting the guy in. I don’t care how we score runs. I don’t think anybody in this room cares how we score runs. We need to stay consistent.”
Associated Press photos