Derek Jeter's chase for 3,000 hits will continue for at least one more night. He's ready for all the hype surrounding the accomplishment to die down.
The New York Yankees captain is two hits shy of becoming the 28th major leaguer to reach the milestone heading into Friday night's home matchup with the Tampa Bay Rays.Jeter played his first home game since June 13 in Thursday's 5-1 loss. He doubled in his first at-bat before failing to get a hit his final four times up, including the game's final out."After the first one, I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't think it was attainable today," Jeter said.Jeter's mom and dad were in the crowd of 47,787 cheering when he came up in the first inning. The superstar shortstop said a couple of teammates mentioned the milestone as the day progressed, but not too many."Maybe they don't want to jinx anything," said Jeter, who strained his right calf in his previous home game that resulted in a stint on the disabled list.He's bidding to become the first player to get 3,000 hits all with the Yankees (51-35).With three more games this weekend, the Rays (49-39) seem resigned to the fact that Jeter will make history at their expense."He's probably going to do it in this series against us, but that's OK. We can't get caught up in that," manager Joe Maddon said.Jeter has a single in two at-bats against right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (8-7, 3.21 ERA), scheduled to pitch Friday for Tampa Bay. Hellickson had been 0-4 with a 4.74 ERA in four outings prior to allowing three runs over 7 1/3 innings in Sunday's 8-3 victory over St. Louis.No Yankee has more than three at-bats against Hellickson, who is making his first career start against New York.New York has lost four of five, three of four since Jeter's return Monday. The Yankees have dropped into second place in the AL East behind Boston.The third-place Rays, meanwhile, are 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox and three behind New York as they opened a stretch of 11 straight against those teams in successful fashion."I really believe it brings out the best in us. We were really up for that game tonight," Maddon said. "That's like playing the first game of a playoff series."Ben Zobrist went 3 for 3 with a homer and B.J. Upton also went deep and drove in three runs for Tampa Bay, which is a major league-best 28-18 on the road.The Yankees will start Freddy Garcia (7-6, 3.13), who is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last three outings. The veteran right-hander is 8-2 with a 3.56 ERA in 15 career starts against the Rays.Garcia gave up one run over seven innings in a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Mets on Sunday.He was in line for the victory until Mariano Rivera blew his fourth save. Rivera was unavailable the next couple games due to soreness in his right triceps, and hasn't pitched since although he has indicated he is healthy enough to pitch now.