"This was definitely a storybook game for him," said Rays veteran Johnny Damon, a Jeter teammate for four years with the Yankees. "Hopefully, he can act very well -- and play himself in his own movie. That's the type of day this was for him."
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A 5-for-5 day, when he needed two hits to reach 3,000 for his career. A home run to hit the 3K mark. Two runs scored. The tiebreaking single in the eighth inning.
"Two hits would've been fine," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "To get five hits and drive in the winning run was a little much."
They were not especially angry, but a better outcome for the Rays was for Jeter to reach his much-anticipated total without inflicting so much damage Saturday.
When Jeter's third-inning homer tied the score at 1, "It was a little tough to be excited for him," said Rays outfielder Matt Joyce, who had homered in the second. "He's a good dude, but you want to win the game. You don't mind him getting [the 3,000th hit] against you, but we didn't want it to affect us, and it definitely affected us."
When Jeter stepped to the plate in the third inning, sitting on 2,999, Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman thought: "On a single, I'll have the chance to be the first one to shake his hand. But when he went in the seats, I had to just tip my cap."
Maddon said he "didn't have any doubt" Jeter would reach 3,000 while the Rays were in town for the rain-shortened series that ends Sunday. "I know there was a lot of consternation on the other side,'' he said. "But I saw him before the game; he looked chipper, he looked energized after having a couple days off. I was pretty confident, in a negative sort of way, that he was going to get it.
"It was a great day at new Yankee Stadium. I thought it was a great baseball game. I thought the fans were thoroughly entertained."
Damon, who tripled to lead off the eighth and scored the tying run on Ben Zobrist's single, thought he might "ruin their parade, but I just made Derek step up a bit more, driving in the game-winning run.''
He added, "I don't think anyone really envisioned a 5-for-5 game. It was a great moment for Derek and his family and for the history of the Yankee franchise. Obviously, we wanted not that good a game for him, but Derek stands for the good stuff in baseball. I'm proud of him."
Even if he did overdo it a bit.