By Kevin Kernan NY Post
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — This is what it is going to take for the Yankees to survive.
In their last 10 innings of baseball against the Rays, they got clutch hits and good defense — and that made the difference. On Sunday the Yankees received terrific glove work from an infield that featured Stephen Drew at shortstop and Martin Prado at second base in a 4-2 win at Tropicana Field.
It was the second straight game Derek Jeter was the designated hitter.
First things first, Joe Girardi made it clear Jeter is his shortstop. And that is the right call.
Asked how many games he could envision Drew being at short down the stretch, Girardi said, “I don’t know, Jetes is our shortstop. I just did it today because the turf is rough on people, so I just did it today.’’
Later he was asked if the Yankees might be better with Drew at shortstop, and Girardi said, “It’s not a discussion I want to have right now, with Carlos [Beltran returning to] the outfield, I can do different things. Jetes is our shortstop.’’
Again, as it should be. But a day off every once in a while is good for Jeter.
This marked the first time all season Jeter was DH in back-to-back games.
Jeter got a key hit in the Yankees’ three-run fifth Sunday, following his clutch ninth-inning RBI Saturday that lifted the Yankees to a 3-2 win.
After Saturday’s game Jeter talked about how he dislikes being the DH. Once a shortstop, always a shortstop — even at the age of 40. Jeter was not available to the media after Sunday’s game.
Jeter was the first player in line on the field after the game to congratulate the team after David Robertson got the final out, a ground ball to shortstop. For Jeter, it has always been about winning the game.
The Yankees were getting no-hit by Jeremy Hellickson with two outs in the fifth. That’s when Drew worked a walk and Prado doubled to left. Brett Gardner followed with a two-run single up the middle. Jeter followed with a single that moved Gardner to third and Jacoby Ellsbury singled to left to give the Yankees the inning they so desperately needed.
The Yankees needed to string together some hits and then needed to protect the lead. They did both.
“[The infield defense] was really good, they made some excellent plays,” Girardi said. “Prado made some tough plays today, you can look at the play in the eighth inning where he understands just get an out, it was outstanding.’’
Prado was the closest thing the Yankees saw on Sunday to how Robinson Cano used to play second, even making a whirling throw to retire Jose Molina. He also reached far to his left to snag a Ben Zobrist hot smash and kept Hiroki Kuroda from serious first-inning trouble when he made a diving stop of an Evan Longoria rocket. He fell to his knees to make the stop and then had to make a double-bounce throw to first to get Longoria as a run scored.
Prado has played outfield and third, too.
“I’ve got to be tough enough mentally to be ready for every position,” he said. “I trick my mind by not to think about one position. I come to the field every day thinking I could play every position. And then when I am playing the position I anticipate, I think of all kinds of plays that could be coming my way so that way I am ready for anything so you know how to react.”
On Sunday he was ready for everything and it showed.
Gardner was impressed.
“He’s kind of like [the Rays’] Ben Zobrist, a guy who can move around and play different positions. He’s going to be a valuable asset for us.”
He sure was on Sunday.