As usual, Jeter's a hit on big stage

Yankees star shortstop goes 3-for-4 with 3 runs as N.Y. takes series lead

World Series

October 22, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - On a night that saw former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina earn his first World Series victory and Bernie Williams become the postseason's all-time home run (19) and RBI (65) leader, nobody changed Game 3 more than Derek Jeter.

Not that the New York Yankees were surprised.

Josh Beckett, the Florida Marlins' 23-year-old flamethrower, was threatening to take over this series, much as he did against the Chicago Cubs last week, but he couldn't solve Jeter.

Beckett allowed three hits in 7 1/3 innings. Jeter had all three of them, and scored three runs.

Nobody in baseball history has more postseason hits than Jeter (119), and he added another chapter to his October legend.

With two more Yankees victories, Jeter will be adding a fifth world championship ring.

"It took me 30-some years to get to the World Series," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He thinks it's an every year experience. ... You look in his eyes, and he's dealing with some physical ailments right now, but he still needs to win."

Jeter, who dislocated his left shoulder on Opening Day, walked into the postgame interview room with both shoulders heavily wrapped in ice. He also had a giant ice pack on his right hand, after getting hit by a pitch in the ninth inning.

Yankees hitting coach Rick Down was still marveling at this performance.

"He performs on this stage very relaxed," Down said, "and that's where his success comes from."

Consider the fourth inning. The Yankees were trailing 1-0, and Beckett had retired all 10 batters he'd faced. Jeter stepped to the plate with one out and gave his team a reason to believe.

After striking out swinging at a 97-mph fastball from Beckett in the first inning, Jeter took a 96-mph fastball for a ball and then pounced on an 86-mph changeup, lining the ball down the left-field line for a double.

Down said Jeter had probably noticed that Beckett was relying heavily on his changeup, starting with the first pitch of the game to Alfonso Soriano. Once Jeter got the hit, Beckett started to unravel a bit. He walked Jason Giambi and hit Hideki Matsui with a pitch to load the bases. And then he walked Jorge Posada - with home plate umpire Gary Darling calling a close 3-2 pitch low - to force home Jeter with the tying run.

Jeter, the Yankees' captain, singled in the sixth inning, and the score was still tied 1-1 when he came up in the eighth. A light drizzle was falling, and Beckett had just struck out Soriano for the third time.

There was one out, and rather than protect the line, Marlins first baseman Derrek Lee was playing about 10 feet toward second base. It was a costly mistake. Jeter got a pitch he could handle from Beckett and drilled the ball down the first-base line for another double.

With a series of lefties and switch-hitters coming up for the Yankees, Marlins manager Jack McKeon pulled Beckett and summoned left-hander Dontrelle Willis. In Game 1, Willis turned in a brilliant relief performance, but this time he only retired one batter before Matsui singled to left field, scoring Jeter with the go-ahead run.

"Every situation you can have in the postseason, Bernie [Williams] and I have been through it," said Jeter, who has hit .321 in this year's playoffs. "I think experience helps. I've been playing for eight years, and I've been fortunate to be in the postseason every year."

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