NEW YORK — Derek Jeter turned on R.A. Dickey’s fastball, sent it deep into the left-field seats and circled the bases at Yankee Stadium for the first time in 14 months.
With his usual flair, Jeter began his final homestand in dramatic fashion.
Jeter’s solo homer gave the Yankees a two-run lead in a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 18, a game the Yankees won when first baseman Adam Lind let Chase Headley’s ninth-inning grounder bounce through his legs for a game-ending error.
With virtually no chance of reaching the playoffs, Jeter has just seven home games left in his 20-year big league career.
“Obviously this year up until this point hasn’t turned out how I’d like to, but you’ve got to keep fighting. You’ve got to keep battling,” Jeter said.
“It’s another game. I’m trying not to think about it being the last homestand. We still have a week left. We’re trying to win games, and I’m going to go out there and play hard like I’ve always done my entire career until we’re out of games.”
Dickey stretched his scoreless streak against the Yankees to 19 innings before Stephen Drew’s RBI double in the fifth. Jeter sent an 82 mph pitch about 10 rows deep for his 150th Yankee Stadium home run, including 12 in the postseason.
New York’s 40-year-old captain ended a 158 at-bat homerless streak with the sixth-inning drive, just the fourth home run of the season and his first at home since July 28 last year against Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore.
Jeter smiled widely as he circled the bases and exchanged high-fives with teammates when he reached the dugout. Given a standing ovation by adoring fans, Jeter didn’t come out for a curtain call because he didn’t want to interrupt Brian McCann’s at-bat.
“I’m sure he’s trying to soak this up as much as he can,” Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s really difficult to take your uniform off. When you’re used to doing something for such a long time, it’s difficult. He understands what’s coming. It’s a big change of life for him, but he loves to play so much that I’m sure he’s going to enjoy it as much as he can.”
Jeter’s average had dipped below .250 during an 0-for-28 slide — the second-longest of his career — before he singled at the Rays on Sept. 17.
Jeter beat out an infield single in the first on a grounder shortstop Jose Reyes double-clutched, and had his first multihit game since Aug. 26. He was robbed of a hit in the fourth by left fielder Kevin Pilar, who made a diving backhand catch.
New York (78-74) moved ahead of Toronto (77-75) for sole possession of second place in the AL East. The Blue Jays started the season 38-24 and led the AL East by six games before play on June 7 but have gone 39-51 since, losing five in a row.
“It’s disappointing for everybody,” Dickey said. “We’ve been a streaky team all year, both bad and good, and right now we’re in the middle of a bad streak.”
While the Yankees closed within five games of Oakland for the AL’s second wild card with 10 games remaining, Fangraphs.com calculates they have just a 0.3 percent of making the playoffs.
” I can’t worry about what I’ve done up until this point. I’m just trying to have one last homestand here,” Jeter said. “Hopefully, we have a few good games left in us.”
Reyes singled with two outs in the eighth and Jose Bautista tied the score when he homered off Shawn Kelley on an 0-2 pitch, slamming his bat as he neared first base. Bautista homered in his fourth straight game against the Yankees and has hit seven of his 33 homers this year against New York.
David Robertson (3-6) came in and pitched a perfect ninth, and Chris Young singled off Aaron Sanchez (2-2) leading off the bottom half. Pinch-runner Antoan Richardson stole second, Brett Gardner sacrificed him to third on a 3-2 pitch and, with the infield in, Headley hit a two-hopper that went under Lind’s glove and through his legs. Richardson, who had held up, trotted home.
“It’s nice to catch a break,” Headley said.
Leaning against the dugout railing, Jeter raised both arms in triumph. “I don’t know how many extra-inning games I’ve got left in me,” he said, ‘so I’m happy we won.”
(RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer)