What a beautiful, strange, heart-palpitating night on a chilly September night at Yankee Stadium. I just don't even know what to say about Derek Jeter at this point. The Yankees won his Yankee Stadium finale in dramatic fashion and he was all over every single run tonight.
The evening got off to an inauspicious start for the Yankees as Hiroki Kuroda interrupted the raucous roll call by giving up back-to-back leadoff homers to Nick Markakis and Alejandro de Aza. That quickly brought the crowd noise level down, but fortunately, those dingers were the only mistakes Kuroda made all night. It was an extremely under-the-radar storyline that the veteran righty might be making his final big league start, as no one knows for sure if he will continue pitching in 2015 or not. Either way, one cannot help but get the sense that Kuroda pitched his final game for the Yankees tonight.
Kuroda was almost perfect after the two homers, surrendering just one hit and no walks while striking out a season-high nine batters. He's been nothing but stellar in his three years in the Bronx, and if this is it, I'll miss him. It's a damn shame that his bullpen could not hold the lead. One more time, with feeling: #HIROK.
The Yankees got the two runs given up by Kuroda back immediately as Brett Gardner lined a single to begin the home half of the first. Then Jeter came up to the plate to a roaring ovation, and he rewarded the crowd with a booming double to left-center field. It fell just a few feet shy of the fence and brought Gardner home. After advancing on a wild pitch, he later scored when embedded Yankee Kelly Johnson booted a grounder at second, tying the game.
The game remained in a 2-2 deadlock through seven as Kevin Gausman was up to the task of matching Kuroda. He pitched five innings of three-hit ball before giving way to T.J. McFarland, who threw a scoreless sixth. The Orioles reliever ran into trouble in the seventh though, as he loaded the bases with no one out for Gardner. The speedy left fielder bounced into a fielder's choice, setting the stage for Jeter. The result was a little anticlimactic, as Jeter hit a slow roller to shortstop, but J.J. Hardy threw it away at second base. Everybody was safe, two runs scored, and Jeter ended up with another RBI. Brian McCann then lifted a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-2.
It seemed as though that odd fielder's choice would stand as Jeter's last at-bat at Yankee Stadium after a quiet eighth inning. Kuroda steamrolled through the O's lineup and gave way to dominant closer David Robertson. On this surreal night of nights however, Robertson could not hold the lead. With Jeter visibly beginning to be affected by the moment as the crowd roared "THANK YOU, DEREK," Robertson regrettably came up with one of his worst outings of the year. He issued a leadoff walk to Markakis, and an out later, Adam Jones slugged a deep two-run homer down the left field line to make it a one-run game. After another strikeout, D-Rob was one out away from closing it out. Then, former castoff Steve Pearce cast a pall on the crowd with a gut-wrenching homer to left-center, tying the game at five. Everyone was devastated, but people on Twitter could see one silver lining: Jeter was due up third in the bottom of the ninth.
Of course magic happened because that's just how it's gone for Jeter over the years. Even Meek allowed a leadoff single through the left side to rookie Jose Pirela, appearing in only his third game at Yankee Stadium. Antoan Richardson pinch-ran and Gardner bunted him over to second. That set up the moment: Derek Jeter with a runner in scoring position and a chance to win his final game at Yankee Stadium.
A Jeter moment ensued.
The walk-off single ended the night and the crowd went crazy. What a fantastic and unbelievable night at Yankee Stadium. What a fantastic and unbelievable career for Derek Jeter.