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."