Jeter fittingly goes out a winner in final game

Yanks' captain hustles for RBI infield hit, then exits against Red Sox

Jeter fittingly goes out a winner in final game

BOSTON -- In one of several thoughtful moments over the past several days, Derek Jeter reflected on his storied career and noted that though he shared the field with many athletes who possessed more talent, he believes that no one ever gave more of an effort.

With that in mind, Jeter's season-long goodbye ended in fitting fashion on Sunday afternoon, running hard down the first-base line to notch the 3,465th hit of his career. He signaled for a pinch-runner and waved his batting helmet as he left the field, exiting a game that the Yankees went on to win, 9-5.

"I felt like the time was right," Jeter said. "My emotions were so all over the place on Thursday in New York. When I got here, I was ready. I was ready for my career to be over with. I'm happy I had an opportunity to come and play here in a couple games, but I'm ready for this to be the end."

After a stirring on-field ceremony that included several stars from the Boston sports scene, which Jeter called "unbelievable," the Yankees captain's final at-bat came against Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz.

Connecting with a 93-mph two-seam fastball on a 1-2 count, Jeter chopped it high in the air to third baseman Garin Cecchini, who attempted to barehand the ball but could not. Ichiro Suzuki crossed the plate on what was immediately scored an infield single.

"I wasn't trying to give him a hit, I was trying to make the play," Cecchini said. "You don't think about that. But after the fact of what happened, you think, 'Oh, man, that was Jeter's last hit of his career, and you were a part of it.'"

Playing on a pair of tight hamstrings after legging out an infield hit on Saturday afternoon, Jeter signaled to manager Joe Girardi that he was ready to come out.

"I knew that was my last at-bat," Jeter said. "I was trying to get a hit. Facing Buchholz, we know how good he is. I was just happy that I ended my career with a hit."

Girardi sent Brian McCann to first base to pinch-run; McCann hugged Jeter and said that he told him, "Congrats on everything, you're the best." Jeter then crossed the infield and surprised Buchholz by offering a handshake.

"I said, 'I know this is kind of odd but I just wanted to say I've enjoyed competing against you over the years and good luck,'" said Jeter, who then waved his batting helmet a few more times to an extended standing ovation before descending into the dugout.

"He didn't have to come up to me," Buchholz said. "He's a class act. That's how everybody knows him throughout baseball. Now he gets to start another chapter. Definitely the classiest person I've ever met."

Girardi said he thought the weekend-long lovefest showed that respect for Jeter is larger than even Yankees-Red Sox.

"I don't know how many people could really unite a crowd like he did today," Girardi said. "Such big rivals, so much history between the teams, but you would have thought it was one team in a sense today."

Jeter finished the afternoon 1-for-2, having lined to shortstop his first time up, and owns a lifetime batting average of .310. He said that he felt it was the right decision to play his last two games in Boston, even though Thursday's walk-off hit in his Yankee Stadium finale seemed like a Hollywood ending.

"You can't take that memory away," Jeter said. "I don't care if I played for another three weeks, that memory is going to be there and it's never going to go anywhere. I played out of respect for this rivalry and the fans here."

Jeter's hit came in a four-run inning off Buchholz. Ichiro, likely also in his final game as a Yankee, opened the scoring with a two-run triple that scored Francisco Cervelli and Jose Pirela. Mark Teixeira also had a sacrifice fly in the frame.

Michael Pineda completed his season with a strong performance, holding the Red Sox to three hits over 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball, striking out 10 as the Yankees notched their 84th win of the year, one fewer than last year.

Buchholz allowed five hits and four runs over six innings, and the Yankees pulled further ahead with five runs in the seventh, with Pirela, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine and Chase Headley all driving in runs.

With Jeter watching from the top step of the dugout, Boston cracked back with five runs in the seventh off Pineda and Esmil Rogers before Adam Warren and David Phelps logged the last seven outs of the Yankees' season.

"The only way it could have worked out better is if we were playing next week," Girardi said.

The end came enveloped in a quirky tribute to Jeter. With a 2-2 count and two outs, Phelps got Dan Butler -- whom the scoreboard showed batting .222 with two outs -- to stamp the official ending on Jeter's career with a fly ball to left field.

"I'm happy being known as a Yankee. That's the only thing I've ever wanted to be, the shortstop of the New York Yankees, and I had an opportunity to do that for 20 years," Jeter said. "Being remembered as a Yankee is good enough for me."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.