NEW YORK -- Befitting his legendary clutch status, Derek Jeter hit a home run to become the first Yankee in team history with 3,000 career hits -- and then he won the game.
"If I had tried to write it and given it to somebody, I wouldn't have even bought it, to be quite honest with you," Jeter said of his day. "It is just one of those special days. I've been lying to you guys for a long time saying I wasn't nervous and there is no pressure. There was a lot of pressure to do it here."
In the third inning, Jeter nailed a 3-2 curveball off Rays starter David Price. When he saw the ball leave the park, Jeter clapped his hands.
"To be honest with you, I was pretty relieved," Jeter said.
The ball was recovered by a fan, 23-year-old Christian Lopez, from Highland Mills, N.Y. Lopez, who works for Verizon Wireless, gave Jeter the ball. Lopez received season tickets for the rest of the season and playoffs from the Yankees, as well as autographs.
In the eighth, Jeter knocked his RBI single passed a drawn-in infield.
"That was him," said ex-Yankee manager Joe Torre, who represented the Commissioner's Office, on Saturday. "I don't care how much his ability has diminished, I guess you could say. At 37, it is no surprise that you are not as good as you were at 27. But he still scares me if I'm in the other dugout."
Following the game, commissioner Bud Selig called Jeter to congratulate him.
Jeter is the 28th player in major league history with 3,000 hits. Jeter joined the 14 players who have done it with one team.
In the fifth, Jeter added a double, moving him past Roberto Clemente for 27th all-time. Then in the eighth, he added the game-winning hit, No. 3,003 of his career.
"It would have been really, really awkward to be out there doing interviews and waving to the crowd after the game if we had lost," Jeter said. "So that was going through my mind in my last at-bat there. It is nice to get a hit, but we needed to win this game."
Jeter, at 37 years old and 13 days, is the fourth youngest player to reach the 3,000 mark.
Ty Cobb (34 years, 244 days), Hank Aaron (36 years, 101 days) and Robin Yount (36 years, 359 days) were the youngest to the mark. Jeter reached 3,000 faster than Hit King Pete Rose, who was 37 years, 21 days.
In June of 2007, the Houston Astros' Craig Biggio was the last player to reach 3,000. Biggio also accumulated all of his hits with one team. Biggio is the only other player to have five hits on the day he reached 3,000.
Former Yankee Wade Boggs is only other player to nail a homer for his 3,000th hit. In 1999, Boggs did it as a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
"I don't think you could script it any better," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "This is already movie-ready ... to get your 3,000th hit on a home run and then to get 3,003, a game-winner, it is just remarkable the day that he had."
Jeter's home run was the first home run he had hit at Yankee Stadium in nearly a year. On July 22, 286 at-bats ago, Jeter hit his last homer in the Bronx. It was an inside the park homer. His last home run over the wall was June 12, 2010.
On the season, Jeter raised his average to .270 with three homers and 24 RBIs.
On Saturday, Jeter entered needing two hits. In the first, Jeter bounced a 3-2 fastball into the hole at short for a single.
In the third, immediately after Jeter made contact on the 78-mph, 3-2 curveball, Price went to one knee, knowing he might have given up a long ball for No. 3000.
"I'd rather not be the answer to that trivia question but I am," Price said. "It's tough. He's one of the best players to ever play baseball so he was going to do it off somebody and it just so happened to be me. It's part of it."
When the ball reached the seats as Jeter made his way down the first base line, Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman doffed his hat. Immediately after Jeter touched home plate, his best friend on the team, Jorge Posada, gave him a huge hug. Mariano Rivera, who has been teammates with Jeter since the mid-90 championship teams, was next to congratulate the Captian.
"You're talking about Babe Ruth to Yogi Berra and (Joe) DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and all those guys and none of them have 3,000 and here comes Derek Jeter for so many years and today to go 5-for-5, I don't think the organization can be more happy than that," Rivera said. "For us, I'm extremely happy for him."
The team circled Jeter, until finally the crowd broke through a little and Jeter got a huge hug from Alex Rodriguez. Jeter looked up to the luxury box that his dad and girlfriend, actress Minka Kelly, sat in. His mom and sister were absent, attending a christening.
"It was tremendous," Jeter's father, Charles, told the YES Network. "I can't describe how I was feeling. We need a victory, first of all. ... Very emotional for me, very happy for him."
"Days like today remind you of the icon that this guy is," Rodriguez said. "To be able to do it in one uniform, I've said it all along, 3,000 hits in a Yankee uniform, for me, is like getting straight A's at Harvard."
After the first celebration, Jeter receded into the dugout, but the 48,103 fans summoned him out for a curtain call. Many of the Rays stood outside their dugout, clapping with the fans.
"The (indication) for me for how relieved he was when he came over and smiled at his family," Girardi said.
Jeter acknowledged the Rays, pointing to them, because, he said, he almost wanted to apologize for holding up the game.
Jeter came to the park disappointed that Friday's game was rained out, which only left him two more days to get the record at home. When a reporter approached during pregame availability, Jeter downplayed the significance of the rainout, but admitted his true thoughts later.
"Now we only have two games," Jeter said, knowing if he didn't do it this weekend, the Yankees start the second half with eight games on the road.
A little after 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jeter stepped to the plate with the recorded voice of the late legendary public address announcer, Bob Sheppard, announcing, "Now batting for the Yankees, No. 2, Derek Jeter. No. 2." The Jeter chants began.
Jeter bounced a 3-2 fastball for a single into the hole between Rays shortstop Reid Bignac and third baseman Evan Longoria. After Jeter rounded first, the crowd picked up their Jeter chants.
Jeter is the first to reach 3,000 in the uniform of a New York team (Mets, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants). Four of the other 27 players to reach 3,000 hits wore a Yankee uniform at some point in their careers -- Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, Paul Waner. Waner is the only one to wear it after he got to 3,000.
"That was by far one of the coolest things I've ever seen," said teammate Nick Swisher. "To not only see him get 3,000 hits, but I mean to see him go 5-for-5 and get the game-winning knock, I definitely think that makes him immortal for sure."
According to Elias, 17,393 men -- both hitters and pitchers -- have played major league baseball, which puts Jeter in rather distinct company, as just .00160984 percent of all major leaguers are in the 3,000-hit club. Jeter is also the first of 1,539 men to have ever played for the Yankees to reach that number, Elias says.
On Saturday, Jeter became the first Yankee to do it -- and he did it in style.
Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Michael Mazzeo and Matt Ehalt and The Associated Press contributed to this story.