Derek Jeter jumped the first pitch of the game like a spring-loaded mouse trap. It was a fastball, of the let’s-get-ahead-in-the-count variety from Francisco Liriano, and by the time Jeter’s bat sprung through the strike zone, all that was left was a bloody stump. The ball sliced through the twilight and cleared the fence with ease. I worried that the game had just yielded it’s marquee moment, making the prospect of the ensuing nine innings rather daunting.
Derek Jeter’s resurgence has been well noted around these parts and much of our focus as been on the future. How many more hits can he get? How many more contracts? It’s been the best part of the season. Well here’s something encouraging: In Derek Jeter’s career from 1998-2009, he slugged under .400 in two consecutive months just three times (September 2003-April 2004, May-June 2006, April-May 2008). From May 2010 to June 2011, Derek Jeter has slugged under .400 for eight consecutive months. In the last eight months of play, he’s been over .400 six times.
I don’t mean to say we should expect vintage Jeter for any extended period of time, but at least we can guess that the Ceti-eel that crawled into his aural canal, wrapped itself around his cerebellum and sapped his strength for 2010 and half of 2011 has died and been expelled. Probably through the nasal cavity with a mess of blood and pus. If Jeter stops hitting for power in 2013, we’ll know it laid eggs.
About the other nine innings… I don’t want to alarm you, but Ivan Nova let up a few extra base hits. A double and a triple. A solo homer. A grand slam. That’s another thing that’s so encouraging about Jeter’s re-found power, he’s slugging over .400 without the benefit of facing Ivan Nova. Nova has allowed the most extra base hits in the league and watching him pitch several times this year, I’m not going to bother fact-checking that statement. It just reeks of truthiness.
Francisco Liriano matched up with an umpire that wouldn’t give him a millimeter, let alone an inch. I figured the Yankees would recognize this and walk around the bases. But apart from Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones, nobody was interested in that approach. Liriano made it through six innings. Almost any other Yankee team in the last fifteen years would have knocked him out in the fourth.
The Yankees lost 7-3 and were reduced to staring at the scoreboard and hoping the Royals would eke out a run against the Rays. The Royals came through and won 1-0 in ten innings. A sigh of relief for the Yanks, I guess. Four games seems a lot bigger than three, but it’s not really.
Photo via AP/Charles Rex Arbogast