NEW YORK -- They planned this, didn't they?
They had to, right? It was all too perfect.
It was all too . . . too perfectly Derek Jeter.
The beautiful afternoon, Yankee Stadium buzzing, and Jeter's 3,000th career hit, a third-inning home run off Rays left-hander David Price.
Jeter began the day Saturday with 2,998 hits, supposedly feeling pressure with two games left to reach the milestone at home.
And all he really needed was two at-bats. Two strikingly similar eight-pitch at-bats.
He bounced a single through the left side in the first inning, to get to 2,999. Then he homered in the third inning, to become the 28th player -- and first Yankee -- to reach 3,000.
And the first to reach 3,001, and 3,002, and 3,003.
Jeter added a double and two more singles, and it was his eighth-inning single that brought home the deciding run in the Yankees' 5-4 win over the Rays. It was the third five-hit game of his career, and the first five-hit game by anyone at the new Yankee Stadium.
Jeter is the fourth youngest player to reach 3,000 hits, behind only Ty Cobb, who was 34, and Hank Aaron and Robin Yount, who were both 36. Jeter turned 37 on June 26, which means he is nine days younger than Pete Rose was when he reached 3,000 hits. Rose went on to play eight more years, becoming baseball's all-time hit leader.
Jeter is the second player to hit a home run for his 3,000th hit. The first was Wade Boggs, who got it while playing for the Rays in 1999.
And he's the second player to get his 3,000th hit as a shortstop. The first was Honus Wagner, who did it in 1914.
He's the 14th player to reach 3,000 hits while playing for just one team.
It's a huge milestone, the biggest individual milestone Jeter will ever reach. And while he will be remembered more for the championships he won, the day he got his 3,000th hit will become part of his legacy.
We'll remember the fans' anticipation, the way they cheered as Jeter came to the plate, the way they screamed on every pitch, and gasped on routine foul balls. We'll remember the way they roared for the first-inning single, and how they did it again -- louder this time -- as the 3,000th hit flew towards the left-field seats.
We'll remember Jeter circling the bases, and Jorge Posada meeting him at home plate with a huge hug. And then Jeter, hugging each Yankee player and coach, one by one, as the Rays stood and applauded him.
It was a special moment, a perfect moment.
A Derek Jeter moment.