“I thought, ‘Don’t catch it!”’ Jeter said. “I thought a bird would hit it or something and someone would catch it.”
But this ball was out of everyone’s reach as the Yankees shortstop broke out of an 0-for-32 slump with a leadoff home run and helped New York complete a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics with a 7-5 victory Thursday night.
“A streak like that, you wouldn’t want to wish on anyone, even other teams,” Jeter said. “Guys on other teams even have been giving me support.”
Jeter started what turned out to be an impressive power display against Zito, who gave up a career-high four home runs. Miguel Cairo hit a tiebreaking three-run homer, and Bernie Williams and Alex Rodriguez also went deep as the Yankees won their third straight.
“We’re looking more like ourselves now—more relaxed,” manager Joe Torre said.
“I had sharpness, and the curveball was good and the changeup was good,” Zito said. “I think it was just that they didn’t miss anything.”
And Jeter certainly didn’t miss the former Cy Young winner’s first pitch.
Jeter drove his first homer of the season well over the left-center field fence and into Monument Park for his first hit since an infield single against the Chicago White Sox on April 20.
It was the longest slump by a Yankees player since Jimmy Wynn also went 32 at-bats without a hit in 1977.
“You can’t help but think about it,” Jeter said. “That’s all you hear about all the time.”
Jeter, who finished 1-for-4, pumped his fist slightly after he rounded first base, and the Yankee Stadium crowd of 35,651, which stood and cheered as Jeter came up, chanted “Jeter! Jeter!” as he crossed the plate. His teammates greeted him at the top of the dugout and high-fived the star shortstop, who came out for a curtain call.
“When Derek came in after the homer, he kind of headbutted me in the chest,” Torre said. “It was a big relief of all the pressure.”
The homer cut New York’s deficit to 2-1 after Eric Chavez hit a two-run homer in the top of the first.
With the game tied at 3 in the sixth, Cairo hit his first homer as a member of the Yankees—a shot into the left-field seats. Gary Sheffield hit a leadoff single and Hideki Matsui singled one out later. After Ruben Sierra struck out, Cairo homered to give the Yankees a 6-3 lead, and came out for a curtain call.
“Yankee Stadium—that was the best, man,” Cairo said. “It was just amazing.”
The A’s made it 6-4 in the seventh on Damian Miller’s RBI grounder. Oakland got another run in the eighth when Jermaine Dye hit a one-out single off Tom Gordon that scored Billy McMillon, who doubled.
The Yankees added an insurance run in the eighth on Bubba Crosby’s RBI infield single.
Kevin Brown (4-0) allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings to stay unbeaten with the Yankees. He struck out five and walked none to start 4-0 for the first time since 1990, when he was with Texas.
“I battled and the offense battled and we kept putting pressure on them,” Brown said. “I think it’s just something that everyone’s been expecting.”
Zito (2-3) allowed six runs and eight hits in six innings and struck out nine, but was done in by the four homers. He had never allowed more than two in a game.
“It was a strange game,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “They’ve got a powerful lineup, but (Zito) had the putaway pitch working, which is why he got all those strikeouts in six innings.”
With the Yankees trailing 2-1, Rodriguez tied it in the third with a solo homer, his fourth of the season.
Williams, the designated hitter a day after sitting with a slightly sprained left knee, gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the fifth with his first homer.
Oakland tied it at 3 in the sixth on Dye’s RBI double.
If Jeter had made another out and dropped to 0-for-33, it would’ve been the longest slump for a Yankees player since pitcher Fritz Peterson went 0-for-35 in 1969, the Elias Sports Bureau said. … The A’s six-game losingstreak is their longest since losing six straight last April.