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The Strike Zone

Jeter homers in return, while Soriano and Matsui come full circle

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)Derek Jeter's home run off of Matt Moore was the 256th homer of his career. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

With one appearance in the Yankees' first 104 games this season, Derek Jeter has had to play the waiting game for longer than anyone might have expected when he was carried off the field during the American League Championship Series last October due to a fractured left ankle. In his first game back from his second disabled list stint of the season, he didn't take long to make an impact.

With his typical flair for the dramatic, Jeter came to bat in the first inning of Sunday's game against the Rays and crushed Matt Moore's first-pitch fastball for a solo homer to right centerfield:

[mlbvideo id="29214171" width="600" height="360" /]

Prior to his previous return on July 11, Jeter admitted that he planned to swing at the first pitch he saw, and he collected an infield single. So it was hardly a surprise that he swung at Moore's first pitch, and hardly out of character that he bashed a homer, the 256th of his career. Though power isn't his calling card, Jeter homered for his 3,000th hit back on July 9, 2011 against the Rays' David Price.

Sunday's shot was the first by a Yankee since July 14; they had gone nine games without a homer, losing six and scoring just 28 runs. It was the first homer by a right-handed Yankee hitter since Jayson Nix hit one on June 25. When newly acquired Alfonso Soriano followed with a two-run blast in the third, the pair of homers equalled the number hit by Yankee righties since May 22, and enabled the team to tie Royals righties with 26 homers, still the lowest total in the majors. With just a .221/.283/.310 line coming into Sunday, Yankee righties ranked dead last among all 30 teams in both on-base and slugging percentages. Soriano's homer was just one of his four hits during the game -- including a game-winning RBI single to give the Yankees the 6-5 victory.

Jeter broke his left ankle back on October 13, and needed surgery to implant a metal plate and screws. He received a clean bill of health to return to action in early March, but played in just five Grapefruit League games before suffering a setback. As of Opening Day, the Yankees had hopes that their 39-year-old, 13-time All-Star shortstop would return around May 1, but on April 18, he was diagnosed with an additional crack in his ankle.

Having played just four rehab games and not completed one in the field, he was activated ahead of schedule on July 11. While serving as the Yankees' designated hitter, he suffered a right quad strain running out a groundball, sending him back to the DL. Saturday was the first day in which he was eligible to return; instead he played a simulated game in Staten Island while his teammates were being two-hit by the Rays' Chris Archer. Sunday's game marked his first appearance at shortstop for the Yankees.

Soriano's homer, which also came off Moore, marked his first hit since being reacquired by the Yankees on Friday. According to the YES Network, the last time he and Jeter homered in the same game was on July 17, 2003. Also homering in that game for the Yankees — hitting a ninth-ininng walkoff homer, at that — was Hideki Matsui, who was in his first stateside season with the team after coming over from Japan. Matsui, whose seven-year career with the Yankees ended with him being named MVP of the 2009 World Series, was honored prior to Sunday's game. After spending full seasons with the Angels and A's, he played 34 games with the Rays last year before being released. He signed a one-day contract so he could officially retire as a Yankee. Here's the video from those festivities:

[mlbvideo id="29216215" width="600" height="360" /].

 
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