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Yankees Vs. Rays: Derek Jeter In Spotlight

(Sports Network) - Flash bulbs will be popping this evening when Derek Jeter returns to the Bronx to continue his quest for 3,000 hits, as the New York Yankees open a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium.

Jeter enters tonight's matchup just three hits shy of becoming the first Yankee to reach the milestone with the club. If it is going to happen in front of his home fans it's going to have to come this weekend, as the Yankees hit the road for seven games following the All-Star break.

"I'm looking forward to it," Jeter said. "I wish I would have got more [Wednesday], but that wasn't the case. I'm definitely looking forward to going back to New York."

After getting two hits on Tuesday, Jeter managed a double in three at-bats in Wednesday's 5-3 loss to Cleveland.

While four members of the 3,000-hit club played for the Yankees at some point in their careers -- Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Paul Waner and Dave Winfield -- no player has achieved the feat while wearing pinstripes. Also, there has never been a player who has recorded his 3,000th hit at historic Yankee Stadium, past or present.

"I'm just trying to get hits," Jeter said. "It's not like I'm trying to do anything differently. It'd be different if I was trying to hit home runs or something like that. In that sense, everything is pretty much the same."

Jeter may not have long to wait, as he has had tremendous success against Jeff Niemann, who will be starting tonight for the Rays. Not only has Jeter gone 5- for-9 against the right-hander, but he also logged three hits against him back in 2009 in the game that saw the Yankees captain tie Lou Gehrig's franchise hits record.

"It'll be fun -- there will be a little bit different buzz in the air, for sure, when you're going out there to take the field," Niemann said. "It'll be exciting. There won't be any shortage of adrenaline or excitement."

Niemann, who is 2-0 lifetime in four starts against the Yanks, has pitched well of late for the Rays, going 2-0 in three starts since a stint on the disabled list. He defeated the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, holding them to a run and nine hits in six innings to improve to 3-4, while lowering his ERA to 5.05.

The Yankees, meanwhile, will counter with right-hander Bartolo Colon, who continued his incredible resurgence on Saturday against the Mets. After missing three weeks with a hamstring injury, Colon returned and blanked the Mets over six innings to run his record to 6-3 to go along with a 2.88 ERA.

Colon, who is 9-2 in 18 starts versus the Rays, has not allowed a run in four of his last six starts. He is pitching to a 1.00 ERA in winning his last four outings and will try to win five straight tonight for the first time since his AL Cy Young Award-winning season of 2005.

While the focus of this weekend's series will certainly be on Jeter, the Yankees enter the matchup holding a slim half-game lead on the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. Tampa, meanwhile, sits just four games back in the division.