NEW YORK // Derek Jeter has tied with the great Lou Gehrig for the most career hits for the New York Yankees as his Major League-best team rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 on Wednesday. The Yankees captain made three hits to join Gehrig at 2,721 for his career, a record that has stood for more than 70 years.
Jorge Posada smashed a three-run homer in the eighth to help New York (91-50) take the four-game set against the Rays (72-68). It was a celebratory night for the home crowd - including his parents - who showered Jeter with applause in the seventh inning as the Yankees shortstop stood at first base and doffed his helmet after reaching the franchise mark. Jeter said he was reluctant to acknowledge the mark because he didn't want to "disrespect" the Rays but the rival players and coaches also clapped in approval during a two-minute ovation.
"I didn't know what to do - we were losing at the time," Jeter said of his special moment. "I took a moment to soak it in. When I saw them giving me an ovation, I really appreciated it. "The fans have been great this whole homestand, I've been trying to do it for them. That's why I bunted (for a hit) in the first inning, because I needed to get at least one hit." Jeter was mired in a zero-for-12 slump, his longest stretch this season, heading into the night but snapped it with an emphatic performance. He will have a chance to break the record today when the Yankees host the Baltimore Orioles.
Jeter also swiped second base in the first inning for his 300th career steal, which ranks second on the franchise list behind Rickey Henderson (326). Gehrig's final hit came on April 29, 1939, a single against the Washington Senators. The man dubbed Iron Horse had held the club record for hits since September 6, 1937, when he passed Babe Ruth. On Wednesday, trailing 2-0, New York rallied when Alex Rodriguez led off the eighth with a single and later scored on a throwing error from Tampa Bay first baseman Chris Richard. Posada came on to pinch-hit and sent a drive over the right-field fence against reliever Grant Balfour, his 21st homer of the year.
The New York relievers Brian Bruney and Phil Coke combined to close out the ninth inning, stranding the third baseman Evan Longoria at third. The starter Joba Chamberlain was pulled after the third inning for the third straight start and has now gone six outings without a win. The Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett led off the game with a solo home run and Pat Burrell added an RBI single as the visitors scored twice in the first inning.
The Rays starter Jeff Niemann struck out eight Yankees and allowed one run in seven innings before being relieved in the eighth as Tampa Bay lost for a season-high eighth consecutive time. * With agencies