In a month when every Yankee has struggled to varying degrees, Derek Jeter’s has not been noticed too much. That’s because when a slump cuts a players batting average to .339, a player is still doing fairly well.
That was Jeter’s batting average when he came to the plate with nobody out and the bases loaded in the fifth inning.
He delivered a game-tying single that was the type of big hit the Yankees had seemingly waited an eternity to get. After Jeter poked a slider into right field, it seemed like a weight had been lifted for the Yankees.
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Not quite, but the Yankees did manage to get a 3-2 victory over the Royals last night with the go-ahead run coming on a Curtis Granderson groundout.
“You can’t go up to the plate thinking about what happened in the previous game,” Jeter said. “Every time you’re up you have the chance to do something for the team. Fortunately, I found a hole.”
“Huge,” Alex Rodriguez said of Jeter’s hit. “It felt really good to win a game. Sometimes you need a game like this to kind of get you on a roll. Hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come.”
Jeter’s hit was his first in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position. It also was his 15th in 64 at-bats since having a .404 average on May 4.
It was the Yankees’ first hit in 13 at-bats with the bases loaded and just their second in 21 plate appearances with the bases full. It also was the type of hit that made manager Joe Girardi believe more runs were coming.
“I did,” Girardi said. “I think you always got to think positive in this game because there’s too much failure in this game not to. If you don’t, it’s going to really wear at you. It’s going to eat at you all the time. So you have to think positive.”
The rest of the Yankees would love to have a slump that keeps their batting average well over .300, but for now they were content to escape despite going 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and 2-for-13 with men on base.
“I think so,” Girardi said of one win relieving some pressure from his team. “It doesn’t matter how it happened. Crazy things happen and pop ups are dropped; it doesn’t really matter. You just kind of relax the guys a little bit.”
That never happened as Granderson’s RBI groundout lowered his average to .252. Robinson Cano, who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, was intentionally walked to get Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez justified that decision by striking out with the bases loaded for the second straight night.
The strikeout also made Rodriguez 6-for-37 with runners in scoring position and 1-for-6 with the bases full.
The struggles were overcome because Phil Hughes pitched well.
Hughes allowed two runs and five hits while striking out seven over six innings. He also was given the benefit of the doubt after loading the bases in the sixth and successfully made it through by retiring Irving Falu on a fly out to left field.
The Yankees also excelled at run prevention in the late innings. They got two great defensive plays by first baseman Mark Teixeira.
Teixeira ended the eighth by spearing a liner by Mike Moustakas and starting a double play to finish an inning that saw Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada throw four pitches. He ended the game by fielding Rodriguez’s off-balance throw on a hard-hit Alcides Escobar grounder that helped Rafael Soriano convert his third save.
“Whoo,” Rodriguez said. “It was just a great play especially for Tex. I knew he was going to be hauling [butt] down the line. He hit that slider off his front foot. I had two choices, but it was a good play.
“When you’re hitting like [junk], sometimes you have to help the team win like that.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.