ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It likely won't rank in the pantheon of big Derek Jeter moments, but for the sinking-fast 2014 Yankees, it qualified as something significant.
How significant remains to be seen.
With his team in desperate need of a big hit, Jeter did what he's done so many times in his career, delivering a tiebreaking single in the ninth inning of the Yankees' 3-2 victory over the Rays yesterday afternoon. It ended their losing streak at five games.
"I like those situations," Jeter said.
Here was Saturday's:
The Yankees, trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, brought a 2-0 lead into the sixth but began the ninth tied at 2-2.
With Brett Gardner on second after an infield single and subsequent throwing error, Jeter twice failed to get a sacrifice bunt down against Tampa Bay lefthander Jake McGee.
With the count 2-and-2, McGee delivered a 99-mph fastball. Jeter inside-outed a hard ground ball to the right of diving second baseman Logan Forsythe to drive in Gardner and make Tropicana Field -- sold out with 31,042 fans, many of whom were rooting for the visitors -- sound like old Yankee Stadium.
"There are a lot of Yankees fans down here," Jeter said. "It seemed like quite a few were in the stands. It was almost like a home game."
There has been plenty of noise for the retiring Jeter this year in opposing ballparks, but nothing like Saturday. "The cheers that you heard for him today, the chanting of his name, I'm not so sure I've heard his name chanted that loud at an opposing stadium this year," Joe Girardi said. "You've heard some, but this was probably the loudest."
The victory for the Yankees, one in which scoring runs still resembled drawing blood from a stone -- they've managed 10 in the last six games -- brought as much relief as excitement to the clubhouse.
Relief certainly was the prevalent reaction for David Robertson, who pitched a perfect ninth to record his 32nd save in 34 chances, including 20 in a row. But he felt he got away with one to pinch hitter Sean Rodriguez, who flied out to Gardner in left to end the game.
"I sure did. It was really loud off the bat," said Robertson, who had not pitched since Aug. 7 and appeared highly distressed when the ball left Rodriguez's bat. "I know he hit it hard, but he just barreled it straight up, and thank goodness it didn't go in the seats."
Until the ninth, all the Yankees had to show was four hits, one of which was Martin Prado's two-run homer in the second on an 0-and-2 fastball from Drew Smyly.
Rookie righthander Shane Greene was terrific, allowing two runs, seven hits and one walk with a career-best 10 strikeouts in six innings-plus. Dellin Betances (5-0, 1.50), who pitched a perfect eighth, got the win.
Greene took a 2-1 lead into the seventh but started the inning by hitting Curt Casali with a 3-and-2 pitch. Kevin Kiermaier followed with a trickler toward third. Chase Headley charged and looked to second, only to see the base uncovered. The momentary pause was more than enough time for the speedy Kiermaier to reach first with an infield hit.
Girardi called on Shawn Kelley, and a sacrifice bunt and Ben Zobrist's grounder delivered the tying run.
At that point, the Yankees appeared destined to lose in a manner all too familiar this season, particularly of late. Jeter, however, said that attitude has never been a part of his approach.
"I know you have to write that story, but for us, every day we come here, you have to be optimistic and you have to take each day as it comes," he said. "No one's thinking about how many games we've lost in a row when we're taking the field. At least I'm not.
"This is a game of ups and downs and failure. It's not easy. When you're scuffling a little bit, that's when you find out a lot about teams, you find out a lot about players. You just have to try and stay optimistic."