There's a chance Derek Jeter's final game in the Bronx Thursday night will resemble a Grapefruit League game more closely than a World Series game.
For a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer whose reputation was built on playing in the most meaningful of games, that bit of harsh reality has to sting.
Jeter and the Yankees are staring at official elimination from the postseason because they lost to the Orioles, 5-4, Tuesday night. So another Yankees loss means they will miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992-93.
The last thing anyone in the Bronx wanted to see was Jeter saying goodbye in a game that means, well, nothing. But that might happen after the Orioles roughed up Brandon McCarthy (7-5) for five runs and 11 hits, including three home runs, in 51/3 innings.
And the Yankees couldn't make up the difference. They trailed 5-1 in the sixth but rallied to pull within a run thanks to Stephen Drew's sacrifice fly in the sixth and Brian McCann's two-run homer in the seventh.
And the stage was set, appropriately, for Jeter to be the ninth-inning star.
Brett Gardner was on first, the potential tying run, and the fans stood when Jeter came to the plate with two outs. In a week that's all about Jeter, of course the game would play out like this. But there was no storybook ending.
Lefthander Zach Britton struck out Jeter on three fastballs -- 96, 97 and 97 mph -- to end it. Jeter swung and missed at the last two, shaking his head in frustration as he walked back to the dugout. Talk about buzz kill.
"He threw hard sinkers,'' Jeter said. "He made some good pitches. It was a short at-bat. That's pretty much it.''
Joe Girardi said what everyone in the ballpark had to have been thinking when Jeter walked to the plate: Why not?
"You're thinking he's going to hit a home run or he's going to hit a ball in the gap and we're going to tie the score and see what happens,'' Girardi said. "But it didn't happen, unfortunately. But you have a pretty good feeling when he's up there.''
It was clear from the first time Jeter ran onto the field that the crowd of 43,201 was there to celebrate all things Jeter.
Every time he came to bat, everyone was on their feet, holding their smartphones and trying to capture every last Jeter memory. Jeter, playing shortstop and batting second as always, went 1-for-5. He is 10-for-25 in his final homestand.
Before the game, outgoing commissioner Bud Selig presented Jeter "The Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award,'' plus a check for $222,222.22 to his Turn 2 Foundation.
"You can learn a lot from watching Derek Jeter,'' Selig said. "How he's conducted himself is just remarkable.''
Then the game, like this season, didn't go according to plan for the Yankees. McCarthy struggled with his location and the Orioles took advantage.
Former Yankee Kelly Johnson led off the second by depositing a 1-and-1 cutter into the rightfield stands. The Orioles made it 2-0 on Nick Markakis' two-out RBI single. Markakis struck again in the fourth, ripping a two-run homer to right for a 4-0 lead.
The Yankees made it 4-1 in the fourth on Chris Young's RBI groundout. But Nelson Cruz led off the fifth with his 40th homer, most in the majors.