Derek Jeter returned to the Yankees Sunday and homered on the first pitch he saw.
Of course he did.
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But the Yankees needed more than just the Captain's contributions to beat the Rays.
In keeping with the returning players theme on Hideki Matsui Day, Alfonso Soriano went 4-for-5 with a two-run home run and a walk-off single in the ninth inning that gave the Yankees a 6-5 victory at Yankee Stadium.
Mariano Rivera (2-2) was the winning pitcher. "When I see Mariano pitching and Jeter hitting, it feels like old times," said Soriano, who was acquired from the Cubs on Friday and had been 0-for-8 in his first two games back in pinstripes.
A back-and-forth game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth when Brett Gardner led off with a walk against Jake McGee (2-3). Jeter (2-for-4) squared to bunt, but McGee threw a wild pitch as Gardner took second.
After Jeter was intentionally walked and Robinson Cano struck out, Soriano grounded a single to center to drive in Gardner with the winning run. "Pretty exciting moment," said Soriano, who got a Gatorade bath from Gardner on the field. "Nothing's changed. We've got the age but we still love the game."
Asked about his reaction to Soriano's game-winner, Jeter replied: "I said 'Thank God' because I didn't want to go out there and play extra innings because I was tired. But I was happy for Sori . . . A lot of great memories here with Sori and it was almost like old times' sake."
Especially in the bottom of the first. Jeter, who was activated from the disabled list before the game, homered to right-centerfield off lefthander Matt Moore. It was the Yankees' first home run in 10 games and first by a righthanded hitter since June 25.
"We need contributions from a lot of people," Jeter said. "It's not like I'm some savior."
Try telling that to the rest of the Yankees and their fans. With Jeter playing shortstop for the first time in 2013, the Yankees salvaged the finale of the three-game series before a sellout crowd of 47,714.
Manager Joe Girardi credited Jeter's "presence," and it did seem as if the Yankees had a little more spring in their steps.
"Just having him in the lineup, having him playing shortstop, emotionally is a big boost for all of us," said Ichiro Suzuki, who went 4-for-4.
Ichiro's countryman Matsui was the planned star attraction, but it was Jeter who received the loudest cheers when he brought a framed jersey out to the retired 2009 World Series MVP. And it was Jeter who received a standing ovation before his first at-bat in his first game since July 11.
After going deep, Jeter received another ovation -- and a curtain call. "He's a movie, is what he is," Girardi said.
Said Andy Pettitte: "It was cool. He does cool stuff."
Jeter, 39, had been sidelined since straining a quadriceps while running out a grounder in his first game since October surgery to repair a broken ankle.
He ran more under control Sunday and had only one chance at shortstop. Jeter fielded a grounder in the fourth and stepped on second for an inning-ending forceout. "It's been 10 months since I played short," he said. "I've worked hard to try to get back on the field. I'm happy that today we were able to win a game and it was uneventful from a physical side."
The one down note for the Yankees was the performance of starter Phil Hughes. Handed a 3-0 lead after one inning -- Vernon Wells had a sacrifice fly and Ichiro stroked an RBI single -- Hughes allowed Kelly Johnson's RBI double in the second and rookie Wil Myers' three-run homer to leftfield in the third as the Rays took a 4-3 lead.
Soriano, who singled in the first for his first hit since the trade, smacked a two-run homer off the top of the rightfield wall in the third to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. Soriano hit 17 home runs with the Cubs before the Yankees picked him up for minor-league pitcher Corey Black on Friday.
Myers hit the first pitch of the fifth over the wall in right to tie it at 5 as Hughes allowed five runs in four innings-plus. It stayed tied until Soriano ended it.
Told about a report that Brian Cashman had to be pushed by Hal Steinbrenner to make the trade, Soriano smiled and said, "When I see [Steinbrenner], I'm going to say, 'Thank you.' "