There are absolutely times when Derek Jeter’s intangibles are blown out of proportion. In fact, there are times when that storyline does a disservice the tangible player he’s been. But there are other times when Jeter’s quiet brand of leadership deserves a turn in the spotlight. It’s cliche to write a Captain Jeter story, and it feels silly to suggest he’s able to will this team to win simply by being himself.
But Jeter has that reputation for a reason.
In no way was Jeter the Yankees best player tonight — this game belonged to Phil Hughes in ever which way — but wouldn’t you know it, the Yankees had just one hit with runners in scoring position tonight, and it was Jeter who floated that RBI single into center field. And wouldn’t you know it, that hit just happened to be No. 3,283 for his career, tying Willie Mays — Willie Mays! — for 10th place — 10th place! — on baseball’s all-time hits list.
“It’s pretty special if you think about it,” Jeter said. “But it’s kind of hard to think about it now because we’re trying to win games.”
Of course he said that. Of course Jeter said the most perfect thing anyone could say in a situation like this. Did you expect anything different?
“He was playing on probably about one ankle tonight, maybe one-and-a-quarter,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s who he is. He’s a fighter, and he finds a way. He gets the big hit tonight, and it’s impressive. … There’s no doubt that he’s a leader and he leads by example. He’s done that his whole career.”
Did the Yankees win this one for Jeter? No, I don’t think so. That RBI single was his only hit in a 1-for-5 night, and it was technically Andruw Jones’ sacrifice fly that brought home the winning run, but nights like this have helped build Jeter’s legacy. You could see him limping when he ran, but there was no doubt that he’d downplay the injury in the clubhouse and shift the focus to things much bigger than his left ankle. And he did exactly that. He did exactly what the Yankees have come to expect him to do.
“You cannot change anything that’s happened,” he said. “We’re in first place for a reason. We’ve played pretty well for the majority of the season. You’re going to go through up and downs, and obviously we would’ve loved to have won all the series leading up to this point but it wasn’t the case. All we can control is how we’re playing now, and we played well here.”
• This was only Hughes’ second career quality start at Fenway Park, and his first scoreless start in this stadium. He held the Red Sox hitless until two outs in the fourth, the deepest he’d carried a no-hitter since September 15, 2010 when he took one into the fifth inning. His seven strikeouts matched his highest total against Boston.
• Hughes’ giving a blunt assessement of the crowd here in Boston: “To be honest, the atmosphere was a little dull in here for the first time in a long time because of the way the Red Sox season has gone this year. If anything, it just felt like a normal game. We just had to go out and win. We got two out of three here, we have to go home and have a tough series against the Rays. We have to get it done.”
• Hughes really leaned on his fastball tonight, and he was aggressive with it. He said he tried to use his new slider early in the game, but the Red Sox weren’t really offering at it, so he decided to stick with the fastball. “I think I had nine or 10 pitches through three or four outs,” he said. “To get off on a good start like that really helps your pitch count later on in the game. That was the case tonight. I was pounding the strike zone early and forcing them to either get into bad counts or swing early and hit themselves into outs, so it’s a big day.”
• This was career start No. 100 for Hughes. It was also his 29th of the season, matching his career-high set in 2010. He threw 95 pitches, his fewest ever in an outing of at least seven innings.
• Girardi said he would have liked to have stayed away from Boone Logan and Dave Robertson, but he knew he could use them for a handful of pitches if necessary. In a two-run game, it was necessary. “In your mind, you say if you can stay away from them, you stay away from them,” Girardi said. “Boone didn’t throw a lot of pitches the last two days, even today we didn’t ask him to throw a lot. Robby, I was a little more concerned about, but I knew I wasn’t going to ask him to throw a full inning. I figured I’d have him for one hitter. Again, he came to me and said he was great.”
• Alex Rodriguez scored his 1,888th career run in the fourth inning tying him with Lou Gehrig for ninth on baseball’s all-time scoring list. He went 2-for-5 tonight and has a hit in 15 of his past 16 games.
• It was a good night for Eduardo Nunez who had two hits and no errors. In his first game back at shortstop since rejoining the team, the Red Sox first ball in play was hit to him. Of course it was.
• This was the Yankees ninth shutout of the season, and their first since August 14 against Texas. Last time they pitched a shutout at Fenway was July 25, 2008.
• According to Elias, the last player to be in the Top 10 career hits list while an active member of the Yankees was Paul Waner in 1945. There’s your totally random fact of the night.
• The Yankees have won back-to-back games for the first time since August 15.
• Final word goes to Jeter: “Now we’re on a winning streak, so were good again, right? It was great to win this series, it really was, but we start all over tomorrow when we get home. Tampa always plays us tough. They’re a handful, so we have to be ready to play, because the teams we’re playing want to beat us.”