NEW YORK — This was so Derek Jeter.
Pressure mounting, time running out, all eyes on him at Yankee Stadium.
He delivered — and then some — on a defining day in his championship career.
Jeter homered deep into the left-field bleachers for his 3,000th career hit, making him the first New York Yankees player to reach the mark. He tied a career best by going 5 for 5. And he capped Saturday’s show by singling home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.
“Just one of those special days,” Jeter said.
Mobbed by his pinstriped pals after the ball sailed into the seats, showered by ovations from his fans, Jeter stood alone in Yankees lore. A fitting crown for the captain, on a sunny afternoon when it seemed he could do anything he wanted in a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay.
Almost as if he saved his best swing of the season to counter his critics and doubters, to prove that he still was, indeed, Derek Jeter. How else to explain it? His first home run in the Bronx this year, for No. 3,000.
“You want to hit the ball hard,” he said. “I didn’t want to hit a slow roller to third base and have it be replayed forever.”
“It’s a number that’s meant a lot in baseball,” he said. “To be the only Yankee to do anything is special.”
Oh, and for good measure: Jeter stole a base, too. For any hitter, a perfect game. Something out of “The Natural,” really.
“I don’t think you can script it any better,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “This is already movie-ready.”
Added the Rays’ Johnny Damon, a former teammate: “Hopefully he can act very well and hopefully he can play himself in his own movie, that’s the type of day this was.”
In fact, HBO will soon show a documentary about Jeter’s pursuit.
“Nobody better in the clutch,” Yankees star Jorge Posada chimed in. “He looks forward to that moment, and today was a perfect example.”
With a swift swing of his shiny black bat, Jeter jolted himself into historic company, hitting a solo home run off All-Star ace David Price in the third inning. He became the 28th major leaguer to hit the mark and joined former teammate Wade Boggs as the only players to do it with a home run.