Jorge Posada's final game in pinstripes?

Jorge Posada, No. 20 on the New York

Jorge Posada, No. 20 on the New York Yankees, during batting practice before Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers at the Stadium. (Oct. 6, 2011) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Anthony Rieber

Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998

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Jorge Posada emerged from the Yankees' dugout for batting practice Thursday afternoon to get ready for his 125th postseason game. He was wearing a warm-up pullover and batting helmet and carrying the bat he would use in what might have been his final appearance as a Yankee and also as a major-league baseball player.

He took his swings and joked with best pal Derek Jeter. If it weighed on his mind that a loss to the Tigers in Game 5 of the American League Division Series would end the season and his tenure in pinstripes, he didn't show it.

He declined an interview request, saying he preferred to talk after the game. The Yankees' 3-2 loss to the Tigers prevented them from extending Posada's time here by at least four games.

If Posada was pushing the whole subject out of his mind, savvy fans at Yankee Stadium weren't. They cheered him during pregame introductions. They cheered him before his first at-bat in the second inning. They didn't boo him when he struck out looking against Doug Fister to strand Mark Teixeira at second base with the Yankees trailing 2-0.

They cheered him in the fourth -- same score -- and chanted "hip, hip, Jorge" when he lined a single to center to load the bases with one out (the Yankees didn't score).

In the sixth, with the Tigers ahead 3-1, Posada singled to left. It was his sixth hit in 13 at-bats in the series. He had been on base 11 times in 18 plate appearances to that point. He has been arguably the Yankees' best offensive player other than Robinson Cano.

"I'm sure it means a lot to him," manager Joe Girardi said before Game 5. "I know it means a lot to all of us . . . We all want it to continue. Jorge has been through this so many times in his career. And understands the magnitude of each at-bat and how to approach each at-bat. That's why we went with him."

With the Tigers starting only righthanders, Posada has been in the lineup for every game as the designated hitter.

What about next year? At 40, Posada still had some pop from the left side and played a surprisingly good first base in limited action this season. He still thinks he can catch; because the Yankees let him do so only once this year (in an emergency), we'll never know if he could have been of even more use as Russell Martin's backup.

Can he get a job elsewhere? Maybe, if he wants to try.

Posada won't be a Yankee in 2012 because his contract is up and they need the DH spot. A season that could have been about easing him out the door was more about shoving him out, but all that's washed away in the playoffs. As Posada probably would be the first to say, Thursday night wasn't about him.

There are many reasons why winner-take-all games in baseball are exciting and exhilarating and something to truly look forward to.

Among them are the unusual moves managers will make, such as using their entire pitching staffs, as it seems Girardi was trying to do. Tigers manager Jim Leyland put in a defensive replacement in the fifth inning up 3-0.

The tension in the stands was real, even if none of this is life or death.

For Posada, all that was on the line in his 125th postseason game was a chance to play in his 126th. And extend a Yankees career he didn't want to end just yet.