The fairy-tale life of Derek Jeter added a stirring chapter Saturday nobody could have predicted.
On a flawless summer day inside a packed Stadium, the perfect Yankee not only reached 3,000 hits with a monster home run in his second at-bat, but he went 5-for-5 with the game-winning hit in a 5-4 victory over the Rays.
“If I had tried to written it and given it to someone, I wouldn’t have bought it,’’ Jeter said of scripting the amazing day. “It was one of those special days.’’
Jeter admitting to fibbing about there not being pressure on him to become the first Yankees player, and 28th player in major-league history, to reach 3,000.
“I have been lying, saying I wasn’t nervous and no pressure to do it here,’’ said Jeter, who passed Roberto Clemente and is four hits away from Al Kaline in 26th place. “But there was a lot of pressure to do it here. It wouldn’t have felt right doing it somewhere else.’’
Jeter singled to left on a 3-2 pitch from lefty David Price in the first. Faced with the same count two innings later, Jeter was looking for a fastball from Price, whose heater reaches 98 mph. Instead, Jeter got a 77-mph breaking ball he crushed for a 420-foot homer that made it into the first row of bleachers in left field where Highland Mills (N.Y.) resident Christian Lopez got his hands on it.
“I knew he wasn’t going to catch it,’’ Jeter said of Matt Joyce, the Rays’ left fielder. “But I didn’t know it was a home run.’’
Jorge Posada led a pinstriped stream of Yankees to home plate where Jeter’s closest friend delivered a sternum-crushing hug. Relievers poured in from the bullpen. Several curtain calls from the delirious crowd of 48,103 followed and Jeter ended them with a salute to his family and friends in the suite four floors up.
Jeter’s grand day continued with a double in the fifth when he scored on Curtis Granderson’s single. Jeter singled and swiped second in the sixth, then in a scenario Hollywood would never accept, strode to the plate in the eighth with the score tied, 4-4, and Eduardo Nunez on third base with one out.
“There was less pressure there than the first at-bat,’’ Jeter said. “I have been in those situations.’’
With the infield in, Jeter bounced a single up the middle. From there, Mariano Rivera recorded the final three outs for his 22nd save to make sure one of the most memorable Yankees performances wasn’t soiled.
“It would have been awkward if we had lost,’’ said Jeter, who is hitting .391 (9-for-23) since coming off the disabled list for a calf injury Monday. “That was going through my head in the first at-bat, we needed to win the game. After the home run I wasn’t thinking about 3,000. If we didn’t win it would have put a damper on things.’’
Page through Yankee history and nobody -- not Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra nor Mickey Mantle -- has 3,000 hits. Former Yankees teammate Wade Boggs is the only other member of the fraternity to homer for the milestone hit. Craig Biggio is the only other player to go 5-for-5 in the game when 3,000 hits was reached.
“To do it in that fashion is incredible,’’ Russell Martin said. “I guess that’s what legends are made of.’’