Not making the playoffs wasn’t the way Derek Jeter wanted to end his 20-year Major League Baseball career, but he gave himself and the New York Yankees a proper send off from the home stadium by hitting a walk-off single to beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5, and finally give the fans something to cheer about in a mostly depressing season.
That’s how it is in the Bronx – a 82-77 year is nothing to be happy about. Not when it’s a second straight season of finishing behind in the AL East and not making the playoffs. The Baltimore Orioles couldn’t be caught in the second half of the year, as the Yankees simply couldn’t generate offense consistently to put themselves in line with the battle for the division title or make up for the lost ground in the chase for a wild card spot.
But the energy on many nights once everyone realized this was another wasted season and especially on the last home game for Jeter at Yankee stadium, the new one, was focused on trying to get one more big performance out of the shortstop, who celebrated his 40th birthday exactly three months ago. Jeter didn’t fail, putting in a solid season for someone his age, especially coming off a 2013 campaign in which he played just 17 games.
But the overall numbers – the .255 batting average, the four home runs and the 49 RBIs don’t matter. It didn’t at least with the Yankees tied with the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth and Evan Meek on to pitch. The game didn’t matter much to the Orioles, and still, there was something quite electric in the air as Jeter took to the plate for a fifth time, already generating two RBIs previously on a double and making the most of a throwing error by Hardy.
Meek isn’t exactly the most trusted of relievers for the Orioles with an ERA that’s touching on 6.00 and already three losses to his name this season. It was another game in which the Yankees failed to generate offense, finishing with just 6-of-33 at the plate. But Jeter got the hit with the game tied at 5-5, and helped Antoan Richardson, on to pinch run for Jose Pirela, score the run, and make the Jeter the hero in front of 48,613 fans inside Yankee stadium for the last time.
The Derek Jeter festival is almost over. It ends in another iconic stadium: Three games against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. A place he’s been booed at for so many years, so many times. It’ll probably be different when he plays there a final time. Maybe he has something special saved for the Yankees’ biggest rivals as well.