- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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NEW YORK -- After picking up a first-inning double, Derek Jeter thought Thursday could be the night he became the first Yankee with 3,000 hits.
Jeter went hitless in his final four at-bats and is two away from the milestone.
"Early on, I thought I was going to get a few but it wasn't the case," Jeter said.
In front of an announced sellout of 47,787, the game almost felt secondary to each Jeter at-bat. Fans stood for each plate appearance, and intermittently chanted Jeter's name as cameras flashed in the night.
"The fans were very loud when I went up to the plate," Jeter said.
In the fifth with one on and one out, Jeter nearly rewarded them with a second hit. Jeter knocked a grounder down the third-base line. Rays third baseman Sean Rodriguez made a nice stab and then fired across the diamond to nail Jeter.
"They were joking on the bench that I hit two or three balls a year down the third-base line," Jeter said. "He caught one of them. It was unfortunate but I thought it was going to get by him at first."
To begin the game, Jeter hit the initial pitch he saw from Tampa Bay Rays starter Jeff Niemann into the gap. Center fielder B.J. Upton fielded the ball. With Upton slow throwing the ball into second, Jeter hustled into second and beat a tag.
In the second, with men on second and third, Jeter grounded out to third to end the inning. In the seventh, Jeter grounded out to short.
Jeter got one last at-bat in the ninth. He chopped out to third, unable to beat the throw to first.
"We'll have to wait another day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Since coming off the disabled list Monday, Jeter is 4-for-18 in four games. The Yankees are 1-3 in those games. With Jeter on the DL, the Yankees went 14-4.
On the year, he is hitting .257 with two homers and 22 RBIs.
When Jeter reaches 3,000, he will become the 28th major leaguer in history to the mark. He will be the first to hit the milestone as a shortstop his entire career.
Jeter seems destined to be the fourth-youngest player in history to 3,000. Ty Cobb (34 years, 244 days), Hank Aaron (36 years, 101 days) and Robin Yount (36 years, 359) got to 3,000 quicker.
If Jeter gets two hits on Friday night, he will be 37 years and 12 days. Peter Rose was 37 years and 21 days when he got his 3,000th hit. Jeter said he has no current designs on 4,000, let alone Rose's record of 4,256.
Five or six years ago, Jeter said, he first realized no Yankee had ever reached 3,000 hits. During spring training, he and a few of his teammates were thumbing through a media guide and came across the all-time hit list.
"We saw that no one had 3,000 hits and that was mind-boggling to me," Jeter said.
When he realized that Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig or Joe DiMaggio never reached 3,000, his first thought wasn't that he could become the first Yankee to accomplish the feat.
"I've always tried to focus on the present," Jeter said. "I try not to look too far ahead because you never know what is going to happen. You realize that you may have an opportunity if you play long enough. But I try not to look to far down the road."
Jeter said that Thursday night was the first time his teammates had mentioned the mark. A few told him to get three hits on Thursday. Jeter got one, so the Yankees updated their advice.
"After the game, they said get a couple of hits [Friday]," Jeter said.
Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.