Jeter’s last game features frantic 1st inning

Things were humming along smoothly for Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium. He fielded questions from reporters before the game and said he did not want to get into emotions with a game to play and would wait until after the game to express an opinion.

Outside, meanwhile, rain kept coming down as the forecasts had predicted. Imagine Jeter’s last Stadium game being rained out? Not a chance. The skies cleared about an hour before the game. The tarp was removed. Pitchers warmed up. Players ran sprints on the damp outfield grass. There would be baseball after all.

The Stadium filled up with camera- and cell phone-carrying fans prepared to record visually every moment of this special night. A farewell video to the Captain from the people of New York City ran on the center-field screen before the club took the field. The Yankees on Demand presentation from AT&T became available on yankees.com shortly after the first pitch.

Then came that first pitch with the crowd still chanting “De-rek Je-ter!” But the first-inning pitches by Hiroki Kuroda proved a little too inviting for the first two Baltimore batters, Nick Markakis and Alejandro De Aza, each of whom homered off 1-2 deliveries.

Talk about a pall going over a crowd. The only cheering heard at that time was when a fan threw Markakis’ leadoff homer back onto the field, the customary act of defiance against an opponent. The Yankees are already eliminated from post-season consideration, so Jeter was playing in a game in which the Yankees were out of contention for only the second time in his 20-season career. The only other such game was Sept. 26, 2008 at Boston, which turned out to be a 19-8 Yankees victory. The Stadium crowd would have loved such a score Thursday night.

Leave it to Jeter to step into the moment as he helped the Yanks get even with two runs in the bottom of the first. Brett Gardner, who has had a rough go of it this month, led off against Orioles righthander Kevin Gausman with a single to right field.

Jeter got the fans on their feet with a drive near the top of the wall in right-center for a double that sent Gardner scampering home. DJ had a satisfying hand-clap as he stood on second base while the crowd reacted with cheers of ear-splitting decibels.

The Captain negotiated the rest of the way around the bases on a wild pitch and an error by second baseman Kelly Johnson, who was stationed in shallow right field in an over-shift against Brian McCann but could not get the handle on grounder for an error as Jeter scored.

The Yanks’ rally negated the Orioles’ outburst and allowed fans to settle in to a game they hoped would continue to feature Jeter in a positive light.

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