NEW YORK -- It was a single like so many in his career. Two outs. Two strikes. Runner in scoring position. And Derek Jeter came through.
The shortstop's second-inning single up the middle didn't just drive in Brett Gardner and give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in Sunday night's 7-2 win over the Red Sox, it pushed Jeter ahead of Babe Ruth on the all-time hits list. Jeter, with that 2,874th career hit -- he'd add 2,875 with a two-run double in the fifth -- moved into sole possession of 39th place all-time.
"Just another tremendous, awesome milestone for a great player," said Andy Pettitte, who has played with Jeter for 13 of the shortstop's 16 Major League seasons. "What can you say about it? He's been a model of consistency on the field and off the field, and he's been fun to play with and watch what he's been doing."
The Yankees made sure to save the baseball, and Jeter tipped his cap to the standing ovation from the 49,096 in attendance, informed of the milestone by the center-field scoreboard.
After the game, Jeter was his characteristically grounded self.
"He means a lot to baseball, but especially to this organization," Jeter said of Ruth. "Anytime your name is up there next to some of the Yankees greats, it's a special moment. It's not like it was a goal of mine, but it feels good once you accomplish it."
There are no Yankees greats to whom Jeter has not been linked. Last season, he passed Lou Gehrig to become the franchise's all-time hits leader. He has played more games as a Yankee than anyone but Mickey Mantle, and he is the first Yankee to be the Major Leagues' active hits leader since Johnny Mize in 1952, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Ruth collected his 2,873rd and final hit as a member of the Boston Braves in a four-hit, three-homer game on May 25, 1935. Ruth retired a week later. He ended his career with 2,518 hits as a Yankee -- behind only Jeter and Gehrig -- with 342 added on from his time with the Red Sox and 13 as a Brave.
"Two amazing players," manager Joe Girardi said.
Jeter is now 125 hits away from 3,000 in his career -- a mark he can expect to reach sometime in 2011. Nobody has ever reached that milestone in a Yankees uniform.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.