Jeter carries Yanks to win with big night

Jeter carries Yanks to win with big night

NEW YORK -- Robinson Cano is one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Alex Rodriguez is one of the game's all-time greats. Mark Teixeira can be a menace.

But needing a big hit, Andy Pettitte and the Yankees still know who they want at the plate after all these years.

"He's the man," Pettitte said of Derek Jeter. "It's going to take an awful lot of baseball and an awful lot of hits for somebody to knock him off. If you need a big hit out of somebody, you want him up there. He loves it. You can see it in his eyes. He wants to be in that situation."

Twice, Jeter came through on Friday, driving in the tying and winning runs to lead the Yankees to a 6-4 victory over the White Sox. Jeter's two-run homer off Freddy Garcia knotted the game in the fifth inning, before his go-ahead two-run triple provided the winning margin in the seventh.

And Jeter's single in the first inning gave him 2,776 career hits, snapping a tie with Ken Griffey Jr. for most among active players.

"He's meant so much to this team," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You can look at so many games that he has such a big impact on -- like tonight. Derek's a winner, and he's always been a winner. One day it will come to an end, but you expect him to play at a high level every time he goes out there."

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen offered a more blunt assessment.

"He is God," Guillen said. "I say he's God all the time. It's fun to watch him play the game. He's the No. 1 ambassador in this game. The guy always has good-looking women around him, too. I mean, God bless him."

The Yankees all felt blessed when Jeter lined Matt Thornton's 95-mph fastball past a diving Jayson Nix in right field, driving in both Francisco Cervelli -- the winning run -- and Brett Gardner in the seventh.

But they were hardly surprised.

"You have to like to be in those situations," Jeter said. "I enjoy those situations."

After Thornton hit Cervelli with a pitch, Girardi opted to let Gardner bat against the left-hander, rather than go to his bench. Vindicating that decision, Gardner lined the eighth pitch he saw into center field to move the go-ahead run into scoring position.

Once he reached a full count off Thornton, Gardner knew he was going to see a fastball over the plate.

"The last thing he wanted to do was mess around with me and have to face Jeter," Gardner said.

It's a reputation Jeter has held for some time.


"He is God. ... It's fun to watch him play the game. He's the No. 1 ambassador in this game."
-- Ozzie Guillen, on Derek Jeter

The Yankees' all-time hits leader, Jeter is now the game's active leader as well -- and that despite Griffey's six-year head start. Over the past decade, only Ichiro Suzuki has more hits than Jeter, who could become the first Yankee to reach 3,000 early next year.

Not typically known as a run producer, Jeter also drove in four runs Friday for the first time since Sept. 10, 2006. And in typical Jeter fashion, he chose his spots wisely.

Jeter was one of the few to put a dent in Garcia's crooked offerings, redirecting a hanging breaking ball over the left-field fence for a two-run homer in the fifth. In the early innings, only Cano -- who went 1-for-4 to finish April at an even .400 -- and Rodriguez had managed to drive in runs off the soft-tossing Garcia.

But Jeter is often immune to stellar pitching.

"It's a lot of fun to be able to play with him," Gardner said. "It's something that I'm very fortunate to be a part of, and something that I probably won't appreciate enough until a long time down the road."

One of the Yankees' other living legends, Pettitte, also did his part on Friday, recovering from a rocky start to silence the White Sox over the middle innings. Though the Sox hurt him early on two soft hits and Paul Konerko's three-run home run, Pettitte retired eight straight at one point and the final five batters he faced.

Alfredo Aceves pitched a scoreless seventh for the win, before Mariano Rivera -- striking out two batters to pass Roger Clemens for 10th place in the franchise list -- locked down the save.

For the Yankees, having Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera -- three-fourths of the vaunted Core Four -- produce is nothing new. But it's a striking reminder of just how potent this group can be.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.