New York Yankees: Jeff Niemann

Niemann: "Nobody wants that to be them."

July, 7, 2011
Tampa Bay starting pitcher Jeff Niemann already has a place in history with Derek Jeter. On Sept. 9, 2009, Niemann gave up three hits to Jeter, which resulted in the Yankees shortstop tying Lou Gehrig for the most hits in franchise history.

With Jeter entering tonight's game three hits from 3,000 for his career, another opportunity presented itself for Jeter and Niemann to be connected with a historical hit.

"I knew he already tied one record off me, he didn't break it, he tied it, so I'm not the break guy on that one," Niemann said. "I knew I already had that one under my belt so I didn't want to have anymore milestones for at least a while."

While Niemann gave up a double to Jeter in his first at-bat, he did not yield hit No. 3,000 to Jeter in Thursday night's game. Jeter's next chance comes Friday against Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson.

"Everyone knows what's going on, there's no secret," Niemann said. "You really kind of had to bare down because nobody wants that to be them."

In the first inning, Jeter hit a first-pitch double to center field for the 2,998th hit of his career. After that, Niemann took care of Jeter in each of the next three at-bats. He retired him on two grounders to third, one of which was a great diving stop by Sean Rodriguez, and another to short.

Niemann said he knew Jeter was being aggressive at the plate after he swung at the first pitch in the first at-bat. He said he focused on making good, quality pitches and the strategy worked.

"It was fun," Niemann said. "It's always fun to have that atmosphere in the stadium and it makes you really hone in as a pitcher I think. It was fun, it was enjoyable."

As much as Niemann postponed Jeter's historic hit for one night, Rays Manager Joe Maddon realizes it's likely to happen against his team. Still, he doesn't want his team focused or worrying about when or how Jeter gets hit No. 3,000.

"That is not anything that we're concerned about. It's inevitable, it's going to happen," Maddon said. "Whoever is the pitcher that throws it, he's going to get talked about a lot, his name is going to be in the book, it's probably going to be highlighted and read. It's OK. He's had 3,000 hits. He's had hits against a lot of guys. That's not what you worry about. If you worry about that stuff, my goodness, that is like inappropriate to emphasis there. It's about us playing our game properly and beating these guys and really shortening the lead going into the second half. With all due respect, he's going to get it and I think he's great and I respect him totally, but this is more about what we're doing."

Sean Rodriguez keeps Jeter from 3,000 hits

July, 7, 2011
As soon as Sean Rodriguez's throw across the diamond one-hopped into his first baseman's glove, resulting in the game-ending ground out from the bat of Derek Jeter, the Rays third baseman realized he had delayed history.

"I turned around and said, man he could have been at 3,000 right there," Rodriguez said. "Kind of told myself, not today though."

While Rodriguez grew up wanting to emulate Jeter, the Rays' utility player who started at third Thursday night kept Jeter from hit No. 3,000 with two great plays in the field in the Rays' 5-1 win against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

"I watched him a lot. You always tell yourself that you want to be that guy and then sure enough you end up taking hits away from that guy," Rodriguez said. "So it's pretty cool."

Rodriguez, who plays various positions for the Rays, started at third base while third baseman Evan Longoria served as the designated hitter with the usual designated hitter Johnny Damon out with an injury.

In the third inning, with Jeter just two hits away from 3,000 hits as he had doubled in the first, the Yankees shortstop hit a hard grounder down the third base line. Rodriguez dove to his left and snagged the ball, before getting up and firing first to retire Jeter.

Earlier in the at-bat, Jeter had flashed bunt, bringing Rodriguez a little closer to the plate. He ended up positioned off the line and it required the dive to stop Jeter from getting hit No. 2,999. Rodriguez said he didn't look at Jeter running and just got up and threw.

"It's just one of the many great plays we had tonight," Tampa Bay pitcher Jeff Niemann said. "It was an awesome play, full layout, he hops up and makes the throw, it's always nice to have that behind you."

In the ninth, with runners on the corners and Jeter still stuck at 2,998 hits, Jeter hit a soft chopper to third. Rodriguez came in, fielded the ball smoothly but he didn't get the best grip, which led to a one-hopper to first base where Casey Kotchman scooped the ball for the last out to secure the Rays' 5-1 win. Jeter finished the night 1-for-5.

"He had a great game at third base. He had a really good game at third base. Great play and on the other side, what about Kotch? My God. Kotch continually makes that play on the other side," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "What can I say? (Kotchman) has been amazing for us this year."

As much as Rodriguez said he would like to see Jeter get his 3,000th hit, becoming just one of 28 players in MLB history to do so, as an opponent, he'd prefer if Jeter saved it for another team, perhaps when the Yankees head to Toronto after the All-Star Break.

For at least one night, Rodriguez kept his pitcher from becoming the answer to a future trivia question of who yielded Jeter's 3000th hit.

"If he gets it, obviously it will be exciting. I'm going to do everything I can obviously to not let him get it, but that's just like I will with anybody else. I don't want anybody to get hits," Rodriguez said. "He's definitely going to get it eventually and it's going to be something that's well deserved, a guy like him, the way he's always played the game. Just great example, a great role model for a lot of young kids that watch him and try and emulate him."



Masahiro Tanaka
13 2.77 141 136
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146