During batting practice on Tuesday, Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts joked about which of them would be the first to hit a home run this season, and when Roberts won that bit of bragging rights with a ninth-inning game-winner, Jeter missed it because he was in the bathroom. On Wednesday, when Jeter evened the score with his first home run of the season, guess where Roberts was. Yep, second-inning bathroom break.
“I was coming up the stairs, and he got to the top step (of the dugout),” Roberts said. “He was just standing there looking for me. I was looking up at him. I said, ‘I was in the bathroom, sorry.’ I didn’t want him to go too much longer. One day after me is perfect.”
This Anaheim series started with questions about whether it was time for Jeter to drop to the bottom half of the order, but in these three games he went 5-for-11 with a home run, a double and a walk. Granted, two of the games were started by left-handers, but it’s still a nice bit of getting back on track for Jeter. The video above is Joe Girardi talking about Jeter being motivated by those who doubt him. At the very least, these three games gave a momentary response to the skeptics.
“It’s good to get one (home run),” Jeter said. “You’d at least like to get one, but I’m not catching Babe Ruth or anything. It’s good to get one because after Brian hit one yesterday, he was joking with me a little bit. I’m happy to at least put one on the board.”
I believe Jeter received a standing ovation for each of his at-bats this series, and not only from the large group of Yankees fans in the crowd. This was a series of absolute appreciation for the Yankees captain, and he responded with a strong three-game set that just might have gotten the Yankees back on track after a bad week or so (we’ll find out if there’s any carryover when things get started again in Milwaukee this season). Jeter was good this series. Whether that means anything in the bigger picture remains to be seen, but he was good here in Anaheim at a time when the Yankees needed an offensive boost.
“I’ve felt comfortable for a while,” Jeter said. “You go through a stretch of four or five (bad) games; I’ll go through another stretch of four or five games at some point. There’s probably a few of us that have gone through stretches of four or five games. That’s how baseball is. Emotionally, you can’t be too high and too low when things are going good or bad. You just move on and play the next day. I’m happy there were some results in this series, but you want it to continue. You don’t ever get into a panic mode because of four or five games.”
• Vidal Nuno is from Southern California and said he had about 50 friends and family in the stands, including his parents, who amazingly had not seen him pitch in person since he was in high school. Think about that. This guy was pitching in front of his mother, who hadn’t seen him pitch since he was a teenager, and he delivered 6.1 innings of a one-run ball against a dangerous Angels lineup. This was Jeter’s night, but my gosh, it was Nuno’s night as well. “This is just like another day,” Nuno said. “Yeah, knowing them, and they’re out there, but it’s just another day where you’re getting the job done and helping the team win.”
• Having a starter pitching in front of family like that is usually the kind of thing that makes Girardi nervous before a game. Girardi wasn’t nervous before this one because he had no idea. “I figured he had his mom and dad here,” Girardi said. “But I didn’t know he had that many people here until I actually took him out and someone said something on the mound and all the people were standing up behind our dugout and giving him a big ovation. So yeah, but I would (have worried) if I would have known.”
• Pitching coach Larry Rothschild went to the mound after Nuno fell behind in the count against John McDonald in the second inning. Nuno said Rothschild had spotted a mechanical flaw — “Just tells me throw the ball, trust your stuff, and get it done,” Nuno said — and although Nuno went on to walk McDonald, he retired the next batter to start a string of 13 straight outs.
• Nuno said it was the control of his two-seamer that helped him get quick outs and work deep in the game. The Yankees didn’t really have a long man all series, but their starters each pitched well out here.
• Before the game, the Angels presented Jeter with a paddleboard as a retirement gift. Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, Mike Trout and Jered Weaver came on the field for the presentation. “You savor the moments,” Jeter said. “The fans have been great, the opposing players have said good things, so you remember those things. At the same time, we’re trying to win games. You appreciate it, but you’re still competing and trying to win.”
• That second-inning home run snapped a 161-at-bat homerless streak for Jeter. It was his first home run at Angel Stadium since August 27, 2006. He finishes his career 114-for-336 (.339) in 81 games at Angel Stadium. That’s his highest average at any ballpark in which he’s had at least 300 at-bats. He is also 222-for-667 (.333) in his career against the Angels, his highest average against any team against which he’s had at least 600 at-bats.
• A home run in his final game at the park where he’s hit so well? “It doesn’t surprise me,” Roberts said. “That’s what I’ve seen when I saw Cal (Ripken) do it. It seemed like every last game in a park, Cal did something. You were like, ‘shocker.’ I have a feeling it might be similar.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury snapped an 0-for-13 slump with a two-hit game. His fourth-inning double was his first hit of this series.
• Two hits and two RBI for John Ryan Murphy, who continues to play well in this backup role. “He’s done a really good job,” Girardi said. “He’s prepared and it’s not always easy for young kid who’s used to playing every day to be productive offensively. I think defensively it’s probably not as noticeable because you can catch guys in the bullpen and get the full speed over there. But it’s hard to get the full speed, game speed, when you’re not playing, and he’s done a really good job with his at bats.”
• The Yankees are off on Thursday and did not fly to Milwaukee tonight. They’ll fly out of Los Angeles at some point on Thursday. No need to fly overnight and get into Milwaukee at some ridiculous time in the morning.
• Final word to Roberts: “It was huge to get out early. Any time you’re on the road and you can score in the first and give your guy on the mound a little bit of breathing room. They can swing the bat, we all know that. Nuno was phenomenal, and I think it always helps when you have a lead, for sure. The momentum kind of got on our side pretty quick tonight. It was good.”
Associated Press photos