The shortstop ran his hit streak to 17 games when he went 2-for-4 with an RBI in an 8-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday.
“The consistency that I noticed, beyond his statistics, is the fact that he comes here with the same intensity every day,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
The performance increased Jeter’s batting average to .344 and gave him 85 RBIs on the season. Those are his highest totals in both categories since 1999 when he finished with a .349 average and 102 RBIs before leading the Yankees to a World Series sweep of the Atlanta Braves. He finished sixth in league MVP voting that season as then-Texas catcher Ivan Rodriguez won the award after hitting a career-high 35 homers.
Among Jeter’s top competition for this year’s honor is Boston’s David Ortiz, the AL home run leader, along with Chicago’s Jermaine Dye and Minnesota’s Justin Morneau, who are among the league’s top 10 in homers. Jeter only has 12 home runs, though he does have 29 steals.
“I think sometimes people lose sight when they talk about baseball players, that hitting home runs makes them great, and if you don’t hit home runs, then you’re not,” Jeter said. “Home runs get all the highlights—you see them on ‘SportsCenter’ and all that. But there’s more to the game than just home runs.”
The seven-time All-Star continues to produce in the clutch for the Yankees (83-55), batting .381 with four homers and 71 RBIs in 134 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Jeter has lifted the Yankees, who have won two of three games in each of their last three series, to a nine-game lead over second-place Boston in the AL East.
Cory Lidle (3-2, 3.38 ERA) goes to the mound for New York looking to win his third consecutive decision.
The right-hander allowed only two hits in six shutout innings in an 8-1 win over the Minnesota Twins last Friday.
“I felt like I was a little bit more on cruise control tonight,” Lidle said. “I just felt like I was getting ahead of more hitters and getting them to chase pitches down in the dirt.”
Lidle’s last loss came against the Orioles on Aug. 16, when he surrendered three runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-2 loss at Yankee Stadium.
Lidle has not fared well at Camden Yards, going 1-3 with a 6.04 ERA in four starts.
The last time the Yankees did not claim the division crown was in 1997, when Baltimore won it. The Orioles (61-78) have not come close to challenging the Yankees since, and go into this series looking to avoid falling 18 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2003 season.
Baltimore also is trying not to match its longest losing streak of the season, having dropped its fourth straight with an 8-4 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.
The Orioles had a season-high five-game slide from May 3-7 and matched it from Aug. 9-15 before beating Lidle and the Yankees to end it.
Baltimore turns to Erik Bedard (12-9, 3.94), who looks for his first win in seven starts.
The left-hander is 0-3 with a 3.95 ERA in that span, which came after he won seven starts in a row from June 16-July 23. Despite his slide, he leads the team in wins, ERA and strikeouts (141).
“That’s the hard part of the game,” said Bedard. “You have to stay positive.
“You can’t do anything about it. You just keep pitching. Eventually everything will turn around.”
Bedard pitched well in his last outing against New York on Aug. 15, but did not receive a decision. He yielded one run and five hits with six strikeouts in six innings of a 6-3 loss.