Derek Jeter turned the All-Star game into just another night of "New York, New York."
After he doubled in the first inning for the American League's first extra-base hit in two years, his two-run single off the Mets' Al Leiter broke a fourth-inning tie, sending the AL on to a 6-3 win Tuesday night over the National League.
Jeter, who went 3-for-3, became the first Yankee ever to win the All-Star MVP trophy and he wasn't even supposed to start!
Still, he's not ready to be ranked alongside Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and Berra.
"You have to play for a lot of years before you can be considered a Yankee great," he said. "I've only played four years. This is my fifth. Hopefully, I can play for a few more years, then start that debate."
He doubled in the first off Randy Johnson, singled in the third off Kevin Brown and scored the game's first run, then got the go-ahead kid in the fourth. His bat went straight to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"When you mention his name, you got to think of the Yankees," said AL manager Joe Torre, also Jeter's manager in New York. "If there ever was a young kid that even the veteran players look to, it's Derek Jeter. It's a very, very proud time for the New York Yankees. Their future did a great job tonight."
He already has three of the Yankees' 25 World Series rings, the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year Award and now this.
"I think if he played here, he'd be the first player to hit .500," said Atlanta's Chipper Jones, who also went 3-for-3. "It's good to see no one else in the National League can get him out either."
Just last Friday, Jeter got a two-strike, first-inning single off Leiter, scoring the first run in the Yankees' 2-0 win over their crosstown foe a rivalry that turned bitter the next night when the Yankees' Roger Clemens beaned Mike Piazza.
Jeter hit .407 against the Mets this year, going 11-for-27 with six runs scored and is a .327 hitter (25-for-77) against them in his career. The single off Leiter came on a first-pitch cut fastball.
"He does it every time I face him. I try to lay off it," Jeter said. "I didn't hit it well, I just hit it in the right place."
Leiter didn't have any thoughs of brushing Jeter back in retaliation for Clemens' pitch.
"Jeter didn't do anything," Leiter said.
Well, neither did Piazza.
"He was just the recipient," Leiter replied.
Jeter, just 26, already is a three-time All-Star. In his previous two All-Star at-bats, he struck out both times.
Getting the start because Seattle's Alex Rodriguez sustained a concussion last weekend, Jeter wanted to swing at first pitches and not fall behind.
Like everything else in his charmed life, he came through.
"I know he's very proud, even though many times he doesn't show much," Torre said.
Jeter and the Yankees love playing in Atlanta, winning the first two games of last year's World Series at Turner Field and sweeping three games at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1996 as they overcame a 2-0 deficit to win what turned out to be the first of three Series titles in four years.
"We played some very important big games here," Jeter said. "I guess it's just good fortune."
It's been a year of struggle for both Jeter, who spent 2 1/2 weeks on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, and the Yankees, who lead the AL East by mere percentage points.
They hope beating the Mets three times in four games started their turnaround.
"It's not easy to win," Jeter said. "We made it look kind of easy three out of the last four years. But it's very difficult to do year after year."
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