Lesson 234 on Jeter's value.
Fourth inning, 1-0, two outs, runners first and third. Jeter hits what seems to be a routine one-hopper to first. Yawn: first flips to pitcher or takes it himself, inning over.
It is only because Jeter was sprinting from contact that the throw was hurried, the ball was dropped. Jeter waved his arms wide to signal to Granderson at third; Granderson scored. 2-0.
Then, Swisher walks. Then, Tex, the hottest Yankee hitter, forces a seeing-eye hit in the 5.5 hole almost by sheer will, past third, then short. Two more runs. 4-0, a margin not even Burnett, with his usual thrills and chills, could mess up.
Different position, but Jeter always reminds me of George Brett, the Royal third baseman who killed the Yankees for 15 years to the point of Yankee fan admiration, and who said he didn't want to hit a home run in his last at bat:
"I want to come up in a meaningless game. I want to hit a two-hopper to the shortstop. Then I want to sprint down the line and be thrown out by one step. And I want some father in the stands to turn to his ten year-old son and say, 'You see that? That's how you play the game.'"
Brett's notion would be as corny as Kansas in August, were it not so true for him. And for Jeter. Granderson played his ass off, Tex kept up his smoking pace, Burnett didn't entirely crumble and the bullpen was solid. But you know the difference in the game? Jeter, hustling down the line, forcing the the throw, the error, the three unearned runs.