NEW YORK — Delirious only minutes earlier, fans at Yankee Stadium sat stunned in utter disbelief while they watched Derek Jeter being helped off the field.
Their worst fears were met, too. The durable captain broke his left ankle and is out for the rest of the postseason.
Three innings after Raul Ibanez sent the 47,122 in Yankee Stadium into a frenzy with a tying two-run homer, the New York shortstop silenced the crowd when he went down and didn’t get up after making a tumbling stop on Jhonny Peralta’s grounder in the 12th inning.
That feel-good moment was gone in a flash.
Jeter appeared to stumble as he took several steps to his left for the sharp grounder, went down and winced in pain as he flipped the ball toward second base. He then rolled onto his stomach, and a collective gasp was heard when the player who symbolizes championship baseball didn’t get up.
Jeter remained on his side, rolling slightly, as trainer Steve Donahue and manager Joe Girardi checked him out. He was helped up, and he put an arm around Girardi and Donahue. They coaxed him off the field with Jeter not moving his left leg as chants of “Derek Jeter!” rang out.
“You can see the disappointment in his face,” Girardi said after the Yankees’ 6-4 loss.
Girardi said the injury won’t jeopardize Jeter’s career. But the recovery will be about three months.
Now if the Yankees are going to go deep in the postseason they’ll have to do it without their captain for the first time in 16 years.
“It’s kind of crushing,” outfielder Nick Swisher said.
Jeter has been a constant in the Yankees lineup since he was Rookie of the Year in 1996. In fact, he has played in all 157 of New York’s postseason games since then.
That’s over now.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate his toughness and his grit,” Girardi said. “It’s, to me, a great example for everyone. And I am not just talking about athletes, I am just talking about everyone that goes through struggles in life or goes through pain in life.”
Already missing career saves leader Mariano Rivera from those five championship teams since early May because he tore a ligament in his knee shagging flyballs, the Yankees will activate Eduardo Nunez before Game 2 of the series on Sunday. Jayson Nix is expected to start at shortstop.
Jeter served as the designated hitter in Game 4 of the AL division series after fouling a ball off the same foot the previous night and had to come out after the eighth inning. It was the first time he didn’t start a playoff game at shortstop, as Nix started in his place.
“I saw him flip the ball to Robbie (Cano), and you figure he’s going to get back up,” Swisher said. “When he didn’t was when I knew something was wrong and you know he wanted to get up and get off the field as quickly as he possibly could.”