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NEW YORK — Derek Jeter admits reaching 3,000 hits is constantly on his mind. It’s unavoidable with everyone talking about it. And he also knows there are only four games left on the Yankees’ current homestand before they head out for a six-game road trip.
The race is on to do it at home.
Jeter had a pair of RBI singles to get within seven of the milestone Sunday, and New York pounded out a season-high 18 hits while beating the slumping Cleveland Indians 9-1.
“I’d be lying to you if I told you I haven’t been thinking about it,” said Jeter, who singled during a five-run fifth inning and again during a three-run eighth, while also hitting a pair of long fly balls to the warning track.
“It’s impossible for that not to be in your head, because I’m around that all the time,” Jeter continued. “Yeah, I’d love to do it at home.”
It’s obvious looking around the clubhouse that he’s getting close.
Curtis Granderson went 4 for 4 and drove in a pair of runs, and he dressed in peace as reporters huddle around the Yankees shortstop. Brett Gardner did the same at the other end of the room after two doubles, a triple, and scoring three runs.
“It’s all over the place,” Gardner said. “It’s still a few days away, but everyone’s pulling for him every single at-bat.”
Alex Rodriguez added three RBIs and scored a run for New York, closing within two of Hall of Famer Ted Williams for 16th place on the major league scoring list. Freddy Garcia (5-5) wiggled out of enough trouble over 6 2-3 innings to win for the third time in four starts.
The Indians have lost nine of their last 10, though they held onto first place in the AL Central by a sliver after Detroit also lost Sunday. Cleveland will try to avoid a four-game sweep when the teams meet Monday night.
“We’re going to have to tinker with the lineup and do whatever we can to try to get better,” manager Manny Acta said. “We were 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position today. You can’t expect to win when you do that.”
Orlando Cabrera reached 2,000 career hits with a single in the second inning, a hard shot at Jeter that hopped over his shoulder and into left field.
That was the biggest highlight of the afternoon for Indians, who stole five bases and kept getting guys into scoring position but repeatedly failed to score.
Josh Tomlin (7-4) did his best to keep the Indians in the game, but his defense failed him in the fifth inning and New York pushed five runs across.
Gardner led off with a double that right fielder Shin-Soo Choo appeared to lose in the flat, gray sky. Jeter followed with his RBI single and Granderson singled before A-Rod hit a fly ball that left fielder Austin Kearns woefully misjudged for a two-run double.
Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher followed with RBI singles, the second of which it appeared first baseman Matt LaPorta could have fielded. Jorge Posada’s sacrifice fly made it 6-0.
“We’ve been swinging the bats well up and down the lineup,” Jeter said.
That hasn’t been the case for the Indians, who were 0 for 17 with runners on base. They’ve managed just five combined runs off opposing starters in their last five games.
It’s not as if they didn’t have chances.
Cabrera was stranded on second in the second inning, and Asdrubal Cabrera left standing on third base in the third. Choo reached third the following inning, and the Indians put runners on second in the fifth and sixth innings without getting them home.
They finally coaxed a run across in the seventh, and loaded the bases against reliever Boone Logan, before Choo lined out to shortstop to end the inning.
“It’s very frustrating,” Orlando Cabrera said. “If I tell you that we’re not trying or we’re not working hard, I’d be lying to you.”
There appeared to be no lingering animosity a day after Rodriguez was hit in the thigh by a pitch, and two days after Mark Teixeira was hit and the benches cleared.
New York batters had been hit eight times over the first five games of the homestand, including once each of the previous five contests. That streak was one shy of the franchise’s longest since 1920, set in May 2006 and matched last August and September.
NOTES: The Yankees put RHP Bartolo Colon (strained right hamstring) and RHP Amauri Sanit (sore right elbow) on the DL before the game. OF Chris Dickerson and RHP Hector Noesi joined the Yankees from Triple-A. ... Indians DH Travis Hafner (strained right oblique) took BP before the game. ... Jets coach Rex Ryan attended the game wearing a pinstripe jersey. ... New York is a major league-best 17-3 in day games. ... Tomlin allowed six runs in five innings.