Excitement, Anticipation As Jeter Approaches 2,354-Games-Played Milestone

If the weather holds up tonight, Derek Jeter will play in his 2,354th major league game, passing Jose Cruz and moving into a tie for 90th on the all-time list. Cruz, the outfielder who spent most of his 19-year career in Houston, last played in 1988.

It has been a busy week for the New York shortstop. On Tuesday, the veteran passed Sam Rice with his 2,988th career hit.

All eyes will be on Jeter, a situation he is more than used to by now. It is not so much the raw number that has gained attention as it is the uncanny regularity with which he has accomplished the feat. Since playing his first game in 1995, he has never racked up more than two games in a single day and rarely plays more than one.

"Consistency is underrated," he said recently.

Still, some suggest the magnitude of the moment may be weighing on him. "I think it's going to affect him," said Don Zomer, his high-school coach. "In fact, I think it may have already affected him.

"The way he's in a slump — and I guess you can call it a slump — maybe that's from the additional pressure."

The Yankees' captain is far from leaving the national spotlight, even after tonight's game. He will be tied with Sammy Sosa for 90th overall. Sosa, whose 3,396 times on base (116th all-time) were marred by accusations of steroid use, could not be reached for comment.

Mickey Mantle holds the Yankees' career record at 2,401 games.

Many analysts expect Jeter to eclipse even this mark by the end of the season.

New York fans would like to see their shortstop reach all of these milestones at home, but manager Joe Girardi said that will not come into consideration. "You'd love for him to do it here," Girardi said. "But you can't physically wear him down or risk hurting him.

"We're going to play it pretty much the way we've played it all year."

Also of note: Jeter is one sacrifice hit shy of 80 for his career, which would put him in a six-way tie for 578th on the all-time list.