In a final season filled with offensive frustration and the likelihood of an idle October, Derek Jeter again was able to rise to the occasion Thursday night in the first game of his last homestand before retirement.
Jeter homered and went 2-for-4 as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays, 3-2, on an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth before 34,279 at Yankee Stadium.
The dramatic win came after Shawn Kelley allowed a tying two-run home run by Jose Bautista on an 0-and-2 pitch with two outs in the eighth to deprive rookie Shane Greene (62/3 scoreless innings) of a victory.
Chris Young led off the ninth against Aaron Sanchez with a single and pinch runner Antoan Richardson stole second as Brett Gardner worked the count to 3-and-0. Gardner fouled off two sacrifice-bunt attempts before moving Richardson to third with a successful sacrifice on 3-and-2 (Joe Girardi said he was bunting on his own at that point).
Chase Headley then hit a hot shot that went under the glove and through the legs of drawn-in first baseman Adam Lind for a game-ending error. It was the Yankees' fifth walk-off situation in the last nine games.
Jeter's line-drive solo home run to left in the sixth inning -- on an 82-mph fastball from knuckleballer R.A. Dickey -- gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead. It was his fourth homer of the season and first in the Bronx.
Was it his last? We'll know by Thursday, when Jeter is scheduled to play his final regular-season home game.
The Yankees still have a mathematical shot at a postseason berth, but they trail the A's by five games with 10 to play. They also would have to hop over Seattle and possibly Cleveland to extend Jeter's career.
Jeter entered the game batting .249 after snapping an 0-for-28 streak -- the second-longest of his career -- with a single on Wednesday night.
He arrived at the ballpark at about 3:30 p.m. and was met with reporters' questions about how he felt going into his final homestand. "I don't know," he said, noting that he had just gotten there and that all he had done was start to put on his uniform while talking to the media. "I want to just try to enjoy it, but I haven't even been outside yet. I want to play games."
The day began with the release on the Internet of a 90-second TV commercial showing Jeter walking around the Yankee Stadium neighborhood and surprising unsuspecting fans. It was shot in July and will start airing on TV tomorrow.
Jeter said he just wanted to say thank you again. But the best way probably is what he did Thursday night -- by providing a few on-field moments to remember.
The home run, which came on a 3-and-1 pitch, was Jeter's first since Aug. 1 in Boston -- a homerless span of 158 at-bats -- and the 260th of his career.
No curtain call? "I heard them cheering,'' he said. "It's been odd. I've been cheered when I've gotten out, too. Mac [Brian McCann] was in the middle of his at-bat, so I don't want to distract anyone that's hitting at the time.''
Jeter scored his 1,919th run, moving into a tie for ninth place in MLB history with Alex Rodriguez.
Jeter also singled in the first, beating out a grounder in the hole that Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes double-clutched on. But he committed a rare baserunning gaffe when he stopped short on an attempted steal of second and easily was tagged out after McCann took a called third strike on a 3-and-2 pitch. Jeter thought it was ball four.
Jeter was robbed of another hit in the fourth when leftfielder Kevin Pillar made a diving catch on a drive to left-center. Pillar had made a similar catch going toward the leftfield line to rob Gardner of an extra-base hit in the second.
So Jeter is 3-for-6 since his 0-for-28 stretch. "I'm happy,'' he said. "We won the game. I can't worry about what I've done up until this point. I'm just trying to have one good last homestand here and I'm going to try to play as hard as I can like I always do.
"It's just another game. I'm trying not to think about it. We still have a week left, so we're trying to win games. I'm going to go out there and play hard like I've always done my entire career until we're outta here. Can't help but think about it because you guys ask about it every day and I hear it from the fans, players, managers, coaches, but when we're playing the games, I'm trying to help us win.
"Obviously, this year up until this point hasn't turned out how I would like it to, but you've got to keep fighting, you've got to keep battling, and regardless of how you've done, you get to come to the field and have a chance to help the team win."
Notes & quotes: The Yankees took a 1-0 lead on Stephen Drew's RBI double with two outs in the fifth . . . Carlos Beltran rejoined the team after missing two games after his wife's miscarriage.