Derek Jeter got a base hit, scored, and drove in a run in his return to the Yankees on Thursday afternoon, leading his dutiful teammates to a comeback 8-4 victory.
The Royals, without a Derek Jeter, were left wondering what could have been after losing an early 4-1 lead.
I’m sure that the Royals breathed a sigh of relief when they came to bat in the first and, peering over at shortstop, didn’t see the pinstriped warrior. Buoyed by that comfort, they loaded the bases, then scored three runs after a double and sacrifice fly.
Ervin Santana, solid all season, retired Ichiro Suzuki to start the bottom of the first, but then Jeter, cleverly lying in wait as the designated hitter, sauntered to the plate and chopped the first pitch towards third. Miguel Tejada, clearly awestruck by the return of Captain Yankee, was late to break to the ball and couldn’t make the throw. Jeter’s grace and guile carried him down the line, defying pain and age to finish safe at first.
After scoring, Derek Jeter watched the Royals add a run after David Lough singled and went to second on an error by Andy Pettitte. He scored on an Alcides Escobar base hit. The Royals shortstop flared the ball to right field, an obvious homage to his shortstop counterpart and he did his best to contain the disappointment of not being able to share the same dirt as Derek Jeter.
Jeter eagerly awaited his turn at bat in the bottom of the second, and his supervision led to the Yankees scoring two runs after a single, double and another single. Jeter, ever the gentleman, allowed the Royals to end the inning by grounding out to third.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Jeter set his sights on a base hit to right field. Johnny Giavotella, obviously still adjusting to being back in the big leagues, foolishly made a play on the ball and threw Jeter out. The captain, as he is wont to do, grinned heading back to the dugout, as he’d moved the runner to third, a cagey move by a future Hall of Famer. The Royals, feeling immensely guilty about Giavotella’s indiscretion, intentionally walked Robinson Cano, an offering of penance. The Yankees, overwhelmed with joy at their leader’s return, scored four runs and took over the lead.
Derek Jeter came to the plate one more time, and, with Luis Cruz on third, grounded out, scoring the final run of the day. Upon returning to the dugout, he commanded his team to cease all scoring, a respectful, sportsmanlike gesture by a true diplomat of the game. For his efforts, he was rewarded by having the rest of the game off as Brett Gardner pinch hit for Jeter when his turn came up the next time.
The Yankees defense put on a fielding exhibition for Jeter, with Ichiro running down a fly ball and making an over the shoulder catch on an Alex Gordon drive. The Yankees bullpen held the Royals to just two hits – a moving tribute to the jersey number (#2) of their returning hero.
The Royals, still in search of a franchise player with the stature of Derek Jeter, still had ten hits, but past the second inning, could not score. Santana fought his control and a bad strike zone and allowed ten hits and three walks in his worst start of the year. David Lough had three hits. Donnie Joseph made his major league debut, walking one, giving up a hit and getting a line out. Louis Coleman struck out four of the five batters he faced. Derek Jeter, basking in victory, witnessed it all.