With one big swing, Jeter earns new tag as `Mr. November'

In deep slump at plate, star gives mom, Yankees a thrill with winning HR


November 02, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - When you're a slumping superstar playing in New York, where there's no place to hide, pressure comes from every corner. Even the one occupied by your own mother.

Shortstop Derek Jeter found this out before hitting his dramatic 10th-inning homer early yesterday morning that rocked Yankee Stadium to its hallowed foundation.

"She's been yelling, `Do something!' for four games," he said. "She's been tired of saying that."

He's probably been tired of hearing it.

Jeter hadn't done much until breaking a 3-3 tie in Game 4 of the World Series and forcing a return to Arizona. He keeps insisting that he's healthy, that the catch he made during the American League Division Series that sent him tumbling into the stands didn't cause an injury. But he hadn't been the same player. Jeter held the ball but lost his stroke.

He was 3-for-32 since the Yankees advanced to the AL Championship Series, numbers not matching his October reputation. Jeter was a career .324 hitter in the postseason, including .342 in the World Series, but was having trouble reaching the outfield.

Now dubbed "Mr. November," Jeter was 1-for-15 in the 2001 Series before getting enough wood on Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim's slider to clear the short porch in right field.

"There's something to this kid," said manager Joe Torre. "There are so many comparisons that have gone on the last five years with A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez] and Nomar [Garciaparra]. They seem to be the three glamour guys at shortstop. [Jeter] may not be able to hit for power with those guys, he may not have as good an arm, he may not do this or do that as well, but the whole package is pretty special. He plays in this town, which isn't easy to do. He has bad days and bounces back. He's durable, both emotionally and physically.

"He came up to me at 10:30 last night and said, `You only have an hour and a half left on your contract. What do you think?' Like he has nothing else on his mind. He's a great stress reliever for everybody in that dugout. And you look in his eyes and he's got that hunger. You don't teach that in a young guy. It's something you're born with."

Jeter was mobbed at home plate after his home run, which he pounced upon with a leap that could have broken both feet.

"The beauty of the postseason is it really makes no difference what you've done up to a certain point because every time you are at the plate or every time you are in the field, you have an opportunity to do something special," Jeter said. "The thing with our team is, who cares what the scoreboard says your stats are, you come up big in big situations."

Martinez's future

The Yankees' off-season list of jobs includes deciding on a first baseman for next season.

Tino Martinez, who tied Game 4 in the ninth inning with his dramatic two-out, two-run homer off Kim, might be playing his final week in pinstripes. The club could turn over the position to power-hitting prospect Nick Johnson or pursue Oakland Athletics slugger Jason Giambi.

"We have a chance to win our fifth World Series, so I don't want to overlook that and look ahead," Martinez said. "I'm just enjoying the moment, trying to find a way to get us our fifth championship."

It sounded yesterday as though Torre wanted to find a way to keep Martinez.

"I don't think anyone has gotten bigger hits or bigger home runs than Tino for the six years I've been here," Torre said. "He doesn't like the attention. There are a lot of guys on this club who are more shy than you would imagine, but he certainly has been a huge, huge presence for us."

Brenly on defensive

A new day brought more questions about Brenly's decision to remove Curt Schilling after seven innings in Game 4 with the Diamondbacks leading 3-1.

Brenly had been in the broadcast booth before replacing Buck Showalter as Arizona's manager. So how would Brenly the analyst have critiqued his move, which backfired in the ninth inning Wednesday night.

"I would have said he did a [heck] of a job and made all the right moves," Brenly said before turning serious.

"First of all, when I was up in the booth, I tried to make it a point to never second-guess. If you can't point out something ahead of time, it becomes the lowest form of journalism to come in after the fact and say what should have happened. I tried never to do that."

The Yogi factor

Never known as a fashion plate, Torre continues to wear a cap with the famous quotation from former Yankees great Yogi Berra: "It ain't over 'til it's over."

"Yogi is pretty special," Torre said. "I happened to put this in my bag a couple weeks ago. It's a little rank right now but it still seems to be working."

Berra couldn't attend last night's game but promised to call.

"I always feel secure around Yogi," Torre said.

Around the horn

Diamondbacks catcher Damian Miller was a late scratch last night because of a strained right calf muscle suffered Tuesday and aggravated the next night. Rod Barajas, who appeared in one game during the postseason and didn't have an at-bat, replaced him at the bottom of the order and hit a fifth-inning home run off Mike Mussina. ... Yankees ace Roger Clemens took batting practice in preparation for a possible Game 7 start at Arizona. Clemens has not pitched a postseason game in a National League ballpark since Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. ... Game 4 on Fox posted a 15.8 rating and 27 share, which is 26 percent higher than last year's fourth game (12.5/21). The four-game average for this year's World Series stood at 14.4/24, up 18 percent from 2000. Game 4, which ended at 12:04 a.m. yesterday morning, drew a higher rating than any of last year's Subway Series games.

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