CLEVELAND (AP) — As the final out was made, Derek Jeter stood near home plate, resting his bat on his shoulder.
He was on deck — just as he is for 3,000 hits.
Jeter pulled within three hits of 3,000 for his career, lining a double in three at-bats against Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, who shut down the powerful New York Yankees for eight scoreless innings and led the Indians to a 5-3 win on Wednesday night.
Jeter, playing his third straight game since returning from injury, went 1 for 3 and also drew a walk from Masterson (7-6), who was backed up by two sensational plays from All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera in the eighth.
His quest to become the 28th major leaguer — and first purebred pinstriper — to reach 3,000 will resume on Thursday night against Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium, his professional home since 1995. The famed ballparks, both the new and old versions, have never hosted any player getting his 3,000th hit.
Now at 2,997, Jeter would be the first, perhaps fitting for the only player to reach the milestone having spent his entire career as a member of the Yankees. Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio and Berra didn’t get nearly as close as Jeter, the team’s career hits leader and one of the most popular players in history. And now, he’s just three solid swings from standing alone among the Yankees’ legion of Hall of Fame sluggers.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Jeter said of his return to the big ballyard in the Bronx. “I wanted more today, but that wasn’t the case. I’m definitely looking forward to going back to New York. Our fans have always been pretty good when they have an opportunity to witness something that hasn’t happened.
“They care a lot about the history of the organization, so I would anticipate them being animated. I don’t know, but I probably think it will be kind of fun.”
Rookie Lonnie Chisenhall hit his first career homer for Cleveland, which took two of three from the AL East leaders. The Central-leading Indians scored two runs in the first off starter Phil Hughes (0-2), but spent most of the night wasting scoring chances. They left the bases loaded twice and stranded 13 runners.
Masterson allowed three hits, struck out six, walked two and got just his second win since April 26. New York’s left-handed hitters went 0-for-19 against him.
The right-hander turned it over in the ninth to Cleveland’s bullpen, but reliever Vinnie Pestano couldn’t finish it out and gave up three runs. Closer Chris Perez came on and got three outs for his 21st save, striking out Brett Gardner to end it as Jeter stood a few feet away.
Hitless in his first three appearances, the 12-time All-Star doubled with one out in the eighth. He went to third on a sharp grounder that Cabrera ran down on the first-base side of second, spun and threw out the speedy Curtis Granderson. Cabrera, who almost didn’t play because of a sprained right ankle, wasn’t done.
With the Indians shifting right for left-hander Mark Teixeira, Cabrera went even farther into short right field before making a sliding stop of a hard-hit grounder. He popped to his feet and threw out Teixeira, punctuating his second defensive gem in minutes by pumping his fist.
Cabrera has been a human highlight reel all season.
“Nothing he does surprises me,” Masterson said. “It never gets old.”
Jeter came in 5 for 12 in his career against Masterson, but went 0 for 2 with a strikeout and walk before his 479th career double, a Jeter-esque shot on an inside-out swing to right field.
“It seems like his ball moves as much as anyone we’ve seen,” Jeter said of Masterson. “He’s throwing 95, 96 all night with a lot of movement. He pitched outstanding.”
Jeter had to talk his way into staying in Girardi’s lineup so as not to interrupt his pursuit of 3,000.
Following Tuesday night’s game, Girardi was leaning toward sitting his captain, who just completed a three-week stint on the disabled list with a calf injury. Jeter helped persuade Girardi, who said his talk with Jeter and a night to sleep on his decision gave him a greater appreciation for the player’s twisted journey to 3,000.
“He wants to get this done with so he can go on and be Derek Jeter, not Derek Jeter pursuing 3,000 hits,” Girardi said. “That’s the sense I got from him. If I was going for 3,000 hits, I don’t know if I would want a day to think about. I would want to get back out there.
“I really did sleep on it. And, no, I didn’t dream about it.”
There shouldn’t be any doubt about Jeter playing the next few days in New York, where fans have been critical of his game over the past two years. He said he would like to reach the 3,000 plateau at home, and he’ll have four games to get there before the All-Star break.
He’s eager to hit the milestone, and the Yankees can’t wait for him to get there.
“He’s three hits away,” Girardi said. “Let’s just hope he gets all three tomorrow. We’re excited about him getting it done.”
Hughes was activated before the game to make his first start since April 14. He had been on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. The right-hander allowed two runs and six hits in five innings.
Hughes was in trouble right away — some of it his doing, some of it by others.
He walked leadoff hitter Michael Brantley in the first and Cabrera, who left Tuesday night’s game in the fourth inning when he rolled his ankle, singled. Travis Hafner followed with an RBI single before Hughes struck out Carlos Santana on a ball in the dirt that got away from catcher Russell Martin.
Cabrera broke for third on the play, and Martin’s throw was wide of the bag, scoring Cleveland’s second run.
Chisenhall’s homer made it 3-0 in seventh, and the Indians added two in the eighth on a bases-loaded walk and Grady Sizemore’s sacrifice fly.
Sizemore also made a nice defensive play in the fifth, robbing Nick Swisher of extra bases with a leaping grab at the wall in right-center.
NOTES: Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez went 2 for 4 and made a diving stop of Santana’s sharp grounder with the bases loaded to end the sixth. Rodriguez is hitting .397 (23 of 58) with 10 RBIs since June 18. … New York had won seven straight series, but lost an outright set in Cleveland for the first time since Aug. 2-4, 2005, when the Indians also took two of three. … The series drew 102,702, Cleveland’s largest three-day weekday total since July 23-25, 2007, vs. Boston. … The Indians will call up former Yankees minor league RHP Zach McAllister to start Thursday against Toronto. McAllister came over last season in a trade for Austin Kearns, who wound up re-signing with the Indians.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)