There's a chance Derek Jeter's final game in the Bronx Thursday night will more closely resemble a Grapefruit League game than a World Series game.
For a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer whose reputation was built on playing in the most meaningful of games, that bit of harsh reality has to sting.
Jeter and the Yankees are in this predicament, staring at official elimination from making the postseason, because Tuesday night they lost to the Orioles, 5-4, and the Royals, who hold the final wild-card spot -- beat the Indians, 7-1.
So another Yankees loss means they will miss the playoffs for the second straight season for the first time since 1992-93.
Any realistic hope of a miracle run to the playoffs likely ended days ago, of course, but the last thing anyone in the Bronx wanted to see was Jeter saying goodbye in a game that means, well, nothing.
But that's where things stand after the Orioles roughed up Brandon McCarthy (7-5) for five runs and 11 hits, including three home runs, in 51/3 innings. And the Yankees couldn't make up the difference. They trailed 5-1 in the sixth but rallied to pull within a run.
Stephen Drew hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Brian McCann followed Jeter's two-out infield hit in the seventh by lining a two-run home run into the rightfield seats to make it 5-4. But that's as close as the Yankees would come.
Jeter, with the potential tying run on first, struck out on three pitches against lefthander Zach Britton to end the game.
Still, the announced crowd of 43,201 clearly was here first and foremost to celebrate all things Jeter, giving the game more of a secondary feel at times. Every time he came to bat, everyone at Yankee Stadium was on their feet, holding their smartphones and attempting to capture every last Jeter memory.
Jeter, playing shortstop and batting second as always, went 1-for-5. He is 10-for-25 in his final homestand.
Before the game, outgoing commissioner Bud Selig presented Jeter "The Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award,'' a check for $222,222.22 to his Turn 2 Foundation.
"You can learn a lot from watching Derek Jeter,'' Selig said. "How he's conducted himself is just remarkable.''
Then the game, like this season, didn't go according to plan for the Yankees.
Joe Girardi gushed beforehand about the "consistency'' of McCarthy's pitches since the Yankees acquired him, yet he looked nothing like the pitcher the Yankees have grown used to. He struggled with his location and the Orioles' high-powered offense took advantage.
Kelly Johnson, who spent the first four months of this season with the Yankees, led off the second inning by depositing a 1-and-1 cutter into the rightfield stands. The Orioles made it 2-0 when Nick Markakis lined a two-out single to center, bringing in Jimmy Paredes.
Markakis struck again in the fourth, ripping a two-run homer to rightfield for a 4-0 lead.
The Yankees made it 4-1 in the fourth on Chris Young's RBI groundout. But the Orioles wasted no time getting that run back. Nelson Cruz led off the fifth by hitting a 2-and-1 McCarthy sinker that didn't sink for his 40th homer of the season, which leads the major leagues.