NEW YORK – The perfect script.
Derek Jeter capped his Yankee Stadium farewell with a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth inning, the latest — and perhaps last — storybook moment of his charmed and illustrious career, to give New York a 6-5 victory Thursday night over the Baltimore Orioles.
Serenaded with adoring chants that echoed through the Bronx night, Jeter tipped his cap several times and drove in three runs. He launched an early RBI double off the left-center wall and saved the best for last, a sharp, opposite-field single to right that knocked in the winner.
“It was above and beyond anything that I’ve ever dreamt of,” Jeter said. “This was a lot of fun.”
After the raucous celebration that followed, Jeter said he’s played his final game at shortstop. He said he’ll be the designated hitter at some point this weekend in Boston, “out of respect for the Red Sox, their fans and the rivalry.”
“I want to take something special from Yankee Stadium and the view from shortstop here tonight is what I want to take home,” he said. “I’ve only played shortstop throughout my entire career and the last time I want to play was tonight.”
It appeared Jeter’s tiebreaking grounder in the seventh would be the swing that sent the Yankees to a win when they built a 5-2 cushion against the AL East champions.
Not bad — but not Jeter.
Nope, he’s always had a flair for the most electrifying kind of drama, and this night was destined to be no different.
As if it was planned all along, closer David Robertson (4-5) gave up a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to Adam Jones and a tying shot to Steve Pearce with two outs.
That only set the stage for Jeter one more time.
“It’s like a movie,” teammate Chase Headley said. “You look up there and you see who’s hitting third and you’re like, really? This can’t happen, can it? You’re surprised but you’re not surprised.”
Jose Pirela hit a leadoff single against Evan Meek (0-4) in the bottom of the ninth before Brett Gardner sacrificed. Jeter lined the next pitch through a huge hole on the right side, and pinch runner Antoan Richardson slid home ahead of Nick Markakis’ throw.
An elated Jeter jumped and raised both arms between first and second. Yankees players rushed out to engulf him as former teammates such as Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre lined up near the New York dugout waiting to greet the retiring captain.
“Sort of an out-of-body experience,” Jeter said.
He went back out to shortstop, crouched down at the edge of the outfield grass and bounced on his toes a couple of times before rejoining the group.
Jeter tipped his cap again and was doused over the head with a sports drink by Gardner and CC Sabathia.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know how I played this game,” said Jeter, who acknowledged getting choked up and breaking down several times throughout the day — usually somewhere he could be alone. “I went up my first at-bat, I forgot my elbow guard. I was throwing balls away. I was giving signs to (Stephen) Drew at second base and there’s no one on base, so I was all messed up.”
The 40-year-old Jeter made a throwing error in the second, then started a difficult double play an inning later. At one point on the basepaths, he appeared to lose track of how many outs there were.
But all that became merely a footnote when Jeter produced another indelible moment to go with his famous dive into the stands and his backhand flip to the plate and his home run for hit No. 3,000.
Mr. November. Subway Series MVP. Jeffrey Maier. The list goes on and on.
“I don’t think there’s a more fitting way to end,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
In one twist that hardly fit, however, Jeter’s home finale was the only game he ever played at Yankee Stadium with his team already knocked out of the playoff race.
Jeter ended last season on the disabled list, so the only other time in his 20-year career (2,745 regular-season games) that he appeared in a game with New York already out of postseason contention was in Boston on Sept. 26, 2008.
“His signature is winning. What other accolade can you pick?” said Orioles skipper Buck Showalter, who was Jeter’s first manager when the youngster broke into the big leagues in May 1995. “Take a good look, because there are not going to be many like this come your way again.”
Kuroda leaves with tie
New York KYODO
Hiroki Kuroda had another strong start on Thursday, but it will hardly be remembered as retiring Yankees captain Derek Jeter singled home the winning run in a 6-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
“That would have been over the top even for a Japanese comic book,” said Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. “For that opportunity to fall to him was beyond one’s ability to imagine.
“I believe every human being has faults, but Jeter’s may be that he doesn’t. His kind just doesn’t come along.”
Kuroda, the only Yankees starting pitcher to remain in the rotation the entire season, allowed back-to-back homers to open the game, but struck out a season-high nine without allowing a walk over eight innings. Kuroda left the game with a three-run lead, but closer David Robertson (4-5) blew the save in the ninth to set the stage for Jeter’s grandstand finish.
“Today wasn’t for me,” Kuroda said. “I left it all out on the field. That’s the biggest thing.”
Kuroda offered no hint about his future plans after the completion of his current one-year contract with the Yankees.
“I have nothing to say about that,” he said. “Having just finished, I’m not going to say anything hasty. From now, I’ll have some time and I want to take my time thinking about it.”
Orioles leadoff man Nick Markakis got things started in the top of the first when he drove a 1-2 pitch into the second deck down the right-field line. Kuroda made his pitch, a sinking fastball inside, but Markakis put a perfect swing on it to put his team in front. With the count 1-2 to No. 2 hitter, Alejandro De Aza, Kuroda hung a split-fingered fastball in the heart of the zone and paid the price with a drive into the lower deck in right.
Kuroda allowed just two runners the rest of the way, on a second-inning throwing error by Jeter and a third-inning single. The 39-right-hander retired the last 16 batters he faced.