By about a foot, Derek Jeter missed putting an unforgettable stamp on a day that was all about him.
Still, the final home opener of Jeter's career ended Monday with a result that matters most to him: a victory. The Yankees beat the Orioles, 4-2, on a chilly afternoon in front of 48,142 at the Stadium.
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"That's Derek," said second baseman Brian Roberts, who had watched Jeter for the last decade from the opposing dugout as an Oriole. "He doesn't care about anything but winning. The rest of the stuff is all extra. Every game counts."
The afternoon wasn't all positive, just as the weekend in Toronto wasn't even though the Yankees won two of three there.
On Friday night, they lost their first baseman when Mark Teixeira strained his right hamstring.
After Monday's game, Joe Girardi announced that closer David Robertson has joined Teixeira on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 1 strain in his left groin, which he first felt while closing out the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Shawn Kelley, staked to a two-run lead, worked a perfect ninth for his first career save, and Girardi said the righthander will get the first crack at filling Robertson's shoes.
"It's not what you want, but you have to figure it out," Girardi said. "Other guys get a chance to step up and you expect them to step up and get the job done in his absence."
Jeter missed Opening Day last year against the Red Sox -- also the home opener -- and he was, ceremony aside, happy just to experience another one. Calling it a "great day," he was greeted with a roar when he was introduced before the game and was given a standing ovation during his first at-bat.
"The fans were energetic, which they usually are, and makes it fun for us as players," Jeter said. "I really missed it last year. Sometimes you don't realize it until you get back out on the field. Home openers are special at Yankee Stadium."
Jeter, part of the first-pitch ceremonies with fellow "Core Four" members Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, hit a long drive to leftfield in the fifth inning. He delayed his trip to first a bit as he left the batter's box, thinking it was a home run, but it hit the 318-foot sign high on the wall. Jeter had to pick up the pace and barely beat leftfielder David Lough's throw to second with a headfirst slide.
He scored on Jacoby Ellsbury's single to right-center to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead, and Girardi said that upon returning to the dugout, Jeter heard plenty of ribbing from his teammates for watching the ball rather than running.
"We've all done it," Teixeira said with a smile. "For Derek, at 40 , we're going to let him slide. He's an old man."
Carlos Beltran singled and scored on a bases-loaded walk to Kelly Johnson later in the inning to make it 4-1, and the Yankees, behind a solid outing by Hiroki Kuroda and effective relief work from Matt Thornton, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Kelley, hung on for the victory.
Kuroda allowed two runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter, the fourth straight Yankees starter to not walk anyone (251/3 innings).
"I'm not disappointed with the outing but I wasn't particularly sharp," said Kuroda, who improved to 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA.
Rookie third baseman Yangervis Solarte, who is hitting .450 with a .522 on-base percentage after going 1-for-3 with an RBI single, a walk and a drive that was caught at the rightfield wall in the ninth, led off the third with a walk and sprinted to third base on Brett Gardner's line-drive single to center. Jeter bounced back to Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who chose to start a 1-6-3 double play rather than try for Solarte at home.
Matt Wieters' two-out RBI single made it 1-1 in the top of the fourth, but the Yankees took the lead for good in the bottom of the inning. Alfonso Soriano, who entered the game 1-for-19, collected the first of his two hits on the day and scored on Solarte's two-out single. Orioles rightfielder Nick Markakis dived and had the ball in his glove for a split-second before it dribbled away.
"Obviously, it's an important day, getting to come home for the first time," Girardi said. "But I think the magnitude of the game, with Derek involved in it, the first pitches, the people catching it, it was a great day."