Yankees 4, Tigers 2

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NEW YORK (AP)—Nothing gets between Derek Jeter and a flyball—not even a teammate.

Jeter made a spectacular tumbling catch while colliding into teammate Robinson Cano in the seventh inning to protect Chien-Ming Wang’s lead Wednesday night in the New York Yankees’ 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers.

“That was the best play I’ve ever seen,” Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said. “That play last year when he went into the stands, he just ran out of field.”

With runners on first and second with one out in the seventh and the Yankees ahead by two runs, Marcus Thames hit fly into shallow center field. Running full speed with his back to the plate, the Yankees captain banged into Cano, who was chasing from second base. Jeter reached over his shorter teammate to make the catch, and the pair fell to the ground, with Jeter landing on top of Cano.

“I thought I could get it when he hit it,” Jeter said. “I didn’t even know Cano was coming.”

At first, Jeter thought he collided with center fielder Bernie Williams. Cano was surprised Jeter got near the ball.

“I don’t know where he came from,” the rookie said.

There were no significant injuries on the play—Cano said he got spiked above his right ankle but was OK—unlike Jeter’s remarkable 12th-inning catch against the Boston Red Sox last July 1. On that play, running all out, Jeter made the catch near the left-field line behind third base. Unable to stop, he dived headfirst into the stands and bloodied his face and bruised his shoulder.

“The one against Boston wasn’t really hard to catch, it was the afterwards,” Jeter said.

The crowd chanted “Jeter! Jeter!” as he retrieved his cap and serenaded him with a sing-song chorus of “Der-ek Jeter,” when he returned to shortstop.

“Two guys colliding and it doesn’t fall in—that’s why he’s one of the best shortstops in the game,” Thames.

Back in the lineup after being hit by a pitch near his left hip Tuesday night and leaving for a pinch-runner, Alex Rodriguez struck out with the bases loaded in the third, then hit a run-scoring double against Mike Maroth off the wall in left to snap a 1-all tie in the sixth.

“I wasn’t worried about striking out; Maroth made a perfect pitch,” Rodriguez said. “When the opportunity came up again, I came through. It was nice.

The Yankees, who twice left the bases loaded, won for the 14th time in 16 games, moved a season-high four games over .500 at 25-21 and closed within a half-game of second-place Boston in the AL East. Just two of the wins have come against teams with records above .500 when the games were played.

Despite Tigers designated hitter Dmitri Young’s pregame insistence that the struggling Tigers would not back down if there was any fallout from Tuesday’s game, there was no trouble, even after Rondell White was hit by a pitch by Wang in the seventh. Tempers flared in the Yankees’ 12-3 win Tuesday after Yankees reliever Paul Quantrill hit Jason Smith with a pitch in retaliation for Rodriguez being hit.

Wang retired his first nine batters before giving up a leadoff single to Brandon Inge in the fourth inning. After Ivan Rodriguez hit an RBI single to make it 1-all, h got Young to ground into a double play. In the sixth, Wang got Rodriguez to ground into an inning ending double play with runners on first and third.

“He was great,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He got into a little trouble, then got Pudge to hit into a double play. He doesn’t lose his cool.”

Wang (3-1) was removed from his fifth major league start with runners on first and third and one out in the seventh to a warm ovation from the crowd of 51,833. Looking down, he shyly tipped his capped as he left, having allowed two runs and five hits.

Mike Stanton relieved and gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Ramon Martinez that pulled Detroit to 4-2, but Tanyon Sturtze, with help from Jeter’s catch, quashed the rally.

Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his 10th save. He is 10-for-10 since blowing his first two chances of the season—both against the Red Sox, who start at three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

New York took the early lead on Gary Sheffield’s RBI single in the first, scoring Jeter.

The Yankees loaded the bases in the third inning on Tino Martinez’s leadoff single, Jeter’s double and, after an out, an intentional walk to Sheffield but Maroth (4-4) got Hideki Matsui to ground to first baseman Carlos Pena, who threw home for the force. He then struck out Rodriguez looking to end the inning.

New York chased Maroth in the sixth, putting the first four runners on. Sheffield walked, and Matsui had an infield hit before Rodriguez hit his double. Posada ended Maroth’s night with a two-run single to make it 4-1.

“I think I could have done a better job of mixing up my pitches,” said Maroth, who gave up four runs and eight hits in five-plus innings.

Notes

The Yankees clinched winning their sixth straight series. … The gametime temperature was 51 degrees. … Martinez snapped an 0-for-12 slide with a single in the third. He batted ninth for the first time in his career. … Maroth picked Posada off first in the fourth.

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