It seemed possible that Derek Jeter might actually get the three hits necessary for 3,000 on Thursday night.

On the first pitch he saw in his 2,361th career game, the Yankee captain roped a double to center field for hit 2,998.

“You think about it because everywhere you go there are signs and people are mentioning it,” Jeter said. “But I’d be lying to you if I thought it wasn’t attainable [tonight].”

That moment was fleeting though as Jeter could not push forward to the 3,000-hit milestone and was unable to deliver what the fans giving the Yankee captain thunderous ovations were anticipating while witnessing a 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

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The 3,000th hit will have to wait at least until Friday night against Jeremy Hellickson. On Saturday he will face All-Star David Price. If it doesn’t happen at those junctures, the final chance before the All-Star break would be Sunday against James Shields.

“He got one and you know he’s probably going to get three more at-bats and it’s a possibility,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “But we’ll have to wait another day.”

Jeter saw 12 pitches in his four at-bats against Jeff Niemann, the same starter he had three hits off two years ago to tie Lou Gehrig’s team record. Jeter could not breakthrough this time with his third three-hit game of the year and first in nearly two months.

Niemann retired Jeter on three grounders, including two to third baseman Sean Rodriguez. The closest Jeter was to a hit occurred in the fifth as Tampa Bay’s infield played back after Jeter showed bunt on the first pitch.

After laying off a curveball, Jeter hit a fastball in Rodriguez’s direction. As Rodriguez ranged and spun to his left towards the foul line, Jeter raced out of the box but could not beat the throw.

“We were joking around on the bench that I put three balls a year down the third base line and he caught one,” Jeter said. “It’s unfortunate but I thought it was going to be by him at first.”

“He’s an athletic kid that can play all over the diamond,” Girardi said of Rodriguez. “He probably took one away from him tonight; he made a good play when he had to range to his right and dove. It’s unfortunate.”

In his next at-bat -- with two outs and one on in the seventh -- Jeter saw seven pitches and fouled off three straight. He would groundout to shortstop Reid Brignac.

Jeter’s spot came up for the final time with two outs in the ninth after Brett Gardner reached on a wild pitch. Facing ex-Yankee Kyle Farnsworth, Jeter saw four pitches before hitting his third grounder of the game to third base for the final out.

“You don’t see that often, a strikeout then a wild pitch,” Jeter said. “I had another opportunity but more importantly than just another opportunity, you’re trying to extend the game and it didn’t happen tonight.”

Whenever Jeter reaches 3,000 hits, he will become the sixth to reach it in 17 seasons or fewer. The others are Pete Rose, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and Paul Waner. He also will join Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken Jr. as the third member to join the club playing primarily at shortstop.

Overlooked due to Jeter's quest, Niemann pitched a terrific game. Niemann allowed just a Robinson Cano home run and six hits overall before exiting with one out in the eighth.

While there is no certainty on the date of Jeter’s hit, attending it will be costly for those without tickets. At the final pitch, the average ticket price according to the ticketing website started at 88 dollars with ticketing fees and roughly an hour afterwards the price rose to 105 dollars.

“It’s inevitable,” Nick Swisher said. “It’s going to happen and I can’t wait for it.”

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @larryfleisher.
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