x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Jeter leads by example

A superb piece of fielding by Derek Jeter helped the New York Yankees narrow the gap on the Tampa Bay Rays.

Derek Jeter's excellent fielding in the seventh inning saves a run for the Yankees.
Derek Jeter's excellent fielding in the seventh inning saves a run for the Yankees.

NEW YORK // A superb piece of fielding by Derek Jeter and excellent pitching from Andy Pettitte helped the New York Yankees narrow the gap on the American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays with a 5-0 victory. The Rays dropped to 55-34 with the loss on Tuesday night, but they still have the best record in the major league so far this season. The Yankees improved to 48-42, 7.5 games behind the Rays, who still hold a three-game lead over the second-placed World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

Pettitte pitched eight innings, gave up four hits and struck out five for the win. Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir struck out five of the first six batters he faced, but gave up a two-run double to Jeter in the third inning. Jeter also contributed some stellar fielding to keep the Rays off the scoreboard in the seventh. With men on first and third and two out, the Yankees captain snared a ground shot by Willy Aybar, leaped and twisted in the air to throw to second baseman Robinson Cano for a force out on Dioner Navarro that saved a run.

The Yankees manager Joe Girardi said: "We knew the importance of the game. We know we have to play better if we want to play October baseball [in the play-offs]. "I look at the play Jeter made. That would have made it 2-1 if they had scored that run. The play Jeter made was vital. "It's a great play and he makes it as good as anybody - the control with which he's able to do it, to jump and spin and make the throw right on the money."

Girardi also praised the performance of Pettitte, adding: "He was outstanding for us and got into a great rhythm." The game stayed at 2-0 until the Yankees broke it open in the eighth inning with three runs, the first a homer for Melky Cabrera. Pettitte said the Yankees were stepping up their form at the right time ahead of their challenging series against Boston. "Boston is ahead of us, and these guys are ahead of us," Pettitte said. "So it was important. They have been extremely hot and as good as anybody in baseball."

* Reuters