Jeter displays his postseason form on electric night
Posted: Wednesday October 4, 2006 1:43AM; Updated: Wednesday October 4, 2006 10:32AM
Derek Jeter went 5 for 5 and capped his big night with a solo homer in the eighth inning.
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NEW YORK -- The old, proud lady has only two more Octobers left to see after this one. The hole being dug for the new, slicker Yankee Stadium, the third version but one on a different piece of earth than its ancestors, might as well be her grave. And the day when she is reduced to rubble, when nothing is left there but its ruin under open sky, you might be able to lift a broken piece of her to your ear, like a seashell plucked from the shore, and still hear 56,291 people chanting the name of Derek Jeter in the last of the eighth inning Tuesday night.
Yankee Stadium on an October night is like Washington when the cherry blossoms burst in the spring or Vermont when the leaves color the mountains in shades of gold, red and orange in the fall. It is a quintessential American place. And when Jeter, the modern soul of the franchise, is the star of the night, the experience is all the more authentic.
Game 1 of the AL Division Series was one of those classic American nights. It was Jeter becoming only the sixth player in postseason history to smack five hits in a game: two to left, two to center and one to right. It was right to have happened in the stadium. His stadium. And by the ease in which he plays, his backyard.
"It gives you goose bumps,'' Yankees catcher Sal Fasano said. "It's amazing to see the love New York fans have for Jeter. It's like when you were a kid when your favorite player hit a home run and you jumped up and down. Well, here there are 50,000 people, and to all of them Jeter is their favorite player."
What does David Ortiz think of Jeter now? Take this lineup, stocked with nine players with a combined 42 All-Star appearances, a lineup that probably could outhit the actual All-Star lineups of this season, and still the roughest patch for a pitcher to navigate -- especially this time of year -- is through Jeter.
"He's just locked in," Detroit starter Nate Robertson said. "I threw a two-strike slider that dove just out of the strike zone and he just sat back and took it like it was nothing.''
No offense to the Tigers, a game bunch who played the best baseball in the majors for four months, only to stumble to a 19-31 finish, the worst 50-game stagger to the finish for any postseason team in history, but Game 1 had the feel of the junior varsity scrimmaging the varsity. There was no holding down the Yankees. The night smelled of inevitability, no matter how much Detroit tried to claw back. Robertson kept shaking his head about making the pitches he wanted to make, but somehow, he said, the Yankees kept turning them into hits. There's no mystery to it. New York is just that deep and that good offensively.
And it probably would not have mattered, but Detroit manager Jim Leyland did his team no favors, either. I understand Leyland's predicament. It's akin to a football game in which you know your team is playing a bigger, faster, stronger one and playing them straight up is futile. So the football coach has to get creative, run gimmick defenses and trick plays. Leyland has to play fast and loose.