In his second comeback attempt, New York Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter did what he usually does: show a flare for the dramatic and lift his team to a big win.
The first pitch he saw in the bottom of the second inning from Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Moore ended up in the right-center field seats, the first run in a 6-5 victory which was capped off by a game-winning single by the newly acquired Alfonso Soriano.
It was the team’s biggest victory of the season, as the struggling Yankees avoided a sweep by an AL East rival before heading west to take on Los Angeles Dodgers aces Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.
Jeter went 2-for-4 with two runs scored after being activated from the DL on Sunday morning. It was just his second game in what has been an injury-plagued season, and it started with that first-inning homer. There is no statistic that could quantify the confidence he injects into his teammates when he’s in the lineup, but it seems like the Yankees, 26th in the majors in team BA and 22nd in runs, are a better team with him no matter what.
As he prepared for his first at-bat, he looked as if he never left. The fans were so excited after Jeter’s homer, in fact, that Robinson Cano had to step out of the batter’s box to allow for the captain to pay a quick curtain call. He added a soft single in the third and an intentional walk in the ninth that led to the winning run.
It was just another day in a legendary career. To Jeter, hitting a home run on the first pitch he sees after two substantial injury stints is just doing his job; but to any baseball fan, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch a man who can accomplish unbelievable feats like this on a consistent basis.
There simply no one else in the big leagues today (and not too many players before him) that could come through the way Jeter does when the moment is brightest.
Of course, Yankees fans must keep in mind that there is a reason why Jeter missed 103 of the team’s 105 games thus far. He is 39-years old and getting more fragile by the day.
However, the Yankees are 2-0 with him on the field. His majestic presence provides a tremendous lift to a roster mostly lacking in talent. Whether it will be enough to overcome New York’s current deficit in the AL East or whether Jeter can stay healthy during the next 57 games is questionable.
As we have seen, though, he is one of the biggest positive influences in the game and he will do everything he can to help the Yankees win.