The great Walt Disney couldn’t have scripted a better ending than the one fans saw on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Team captain Derek Jeter batted in the winning run in the 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles, in his final home at-bat at Yankee Stadium.
Jeter, who is retiring at the conclusion of the season, stood in the batter’s box with a capacity crowd of fans, family, and former teammates sending him off as the Yankees played their home finale against the Orioles. Throughout the night, everyone voiced their appreciated for Jeter, chanting his name and cheering wildly for “The Captain.” But it didn’t look like it was going to be the storybook ending that everyone thought.
Aside from threatening weather, that proved to never be an issue, his seventh inning appearance was thought to be it for Jeter. Already with a 3-2 lead, he drove in an insurance run off reliever Ryan Webb. He reached base on a throwing error, and it seemed like that would be all for him. Then the ninth inning came around.
The Orioles came to bat in the top of the ninth already down 5-2. But back-to-back home runs from Adam Jones, a two-run shot, and a solo blast from Steve Pearce tied the game. It marked as a blown save for David Robertson, but the fans could care less because it meant they would would see Jeter one last time.
Evan Meek came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth for Baltimore, and was set to take the game into extra innings. But Jose Pirela led off with a single and would bow out to pinch runner Antoan Richardson. Brett Gardner followed up with a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second and set the stage for an ending that will be talked about for years.
Jeter stepped up to the plate and bounced the first pitch he saw into right field to score the winning run. Yankee Stadium exploded with cheers, tears, and appreciation for Jeter. A standing ovation that lasted for what seemed like an eternity. After the game, Jeter spoke about what the night meant to him.
You know it’s amazing. I don’t even know why they’re thanking me, I’m just a guy coming to work to do a job. If anything, I should be thanking them. It’s kind of thrown me off all night, earlier I forgot my elbow guard, I was giving signals to a second baseman that wasn’t even at the bag. I had tears in my eyes when I was out there, and all I could think was I hope nobody hits one to me because I won’t be able to see the ball well enough to make a play.
With the win, Jeter closes out a 20-year career at Yankee Stadium. He did mention in interviews after the game, that he does intend to help out in the team’s season finale this weekend in Boston.
I’ve already been asked if I’m going to play this weekend. I want to contribute and play in some form, but I think out of respect to the fans, Boston, and the rivalry, I’m not going to play at shortstop. I’ll be a pinch-hitter or a designated hitter. The way tonight ended, that’s how I want to remember my last night at home, and I think it’s only fair to everyone else if that’s how we end it. I’ll still play, but just in a limited capacity.
The Yankees will end their season this weekend with a final set against the Boston Red Sox. The first game is set for Friday night at Fenway Park. Chris Capuano (1-1, 4.58 ERA), who started the season with the Sox, takes the mound for the Yankees. Steven Wright will seek his first decision of the year and will bring his knuckle ball to the mound for Boston. First pitch is set for 7:10 P.M. Eastern and will be carried nationally on ESPN.