A little grounder up the middle left Derek Jeter sprawled in the dirt, screaming in pain. The Yankees had lost more than the American League Championship Series opener — they had lost their captain for the rest of the postseason with a broken left ankle.
Detroit's 6-4 win and Jeter's injury Saturday night capped a game of wild swings and wild swings of emotion.
"Watching Jete go down was, and still is, a very difficult moment for us as a team and what he means to us, a great player and the great leader that he is," said Raul Ibanez, who hit yet another tying home run as the Yankees rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the ninth inning.
Jeter rolled when he reached down in an attempt to glove Jhonny Peralta's grounder up the middle in the 12th, planted his left foot and tumbled, landing on his stomach. Unable to move, he made a backhand flip toward second baseman Robinson Cano — the same motion he made in the famous play against Oakland 11 years ago.
Jeter was down for about a minute and was helped up then assisted to the dugout with manager Joe Girardi on his left and trainer Steve Donahue on his right.
"They talked about a three-month recovery period," Girardi said. "Won't jeopardize his career, but he will not be playing any more for us this year."
Jeter, who extended his career record earlier in the game with his 200th postseason hit, has been playing with a sore left foot for weeks. He joined closer Mariano Rivera on the sidelines. Rivera tore a knee ligament in May while shagging fly balls before a game in Kansas City.
"It is kind of a flashback to when Mo didn't get up," Girardi said. "Oh, boy, if he is not getting up, something's wrong. We have seen what he played through in the last month and a half, and the pain he has been in, and how he found a way to get [through] it. So it brought back a flashback for me."
Still, without Rivera, the Yankees won the AL East for the 13th time in 17 years.
"I think some people left us for dead when Mo went down, and here we are in the ALCS." Girardi said. "And Jete is going to tell us, 'Let's go.' "
Eduardo Nunez will fill Jeter's roster spot, with Jayson Nix likely taking over at shortstop.
"We've got to win this series. Somebody's got to step in and fill that spot," said Andy Pettitte, Saturday's starting pitcher.
Detroit was coasting toward a 4-0 win before the Yankees rocked Tigers closer Jose Valverde in the ninth.
Valverde has allowed seven runs in three playoff games and could lose his closer's role to Octavio Dotel.
"We really want to put our heads together and discuss it first, to be honest with you, and get together as a coaching staff and talk about it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Ichiro Suzuki started the Yankees' comeback with a two-run homer with one out in the ninth, and the 40-year-old Ibanez hit another two-run drive with two outs. Three nights earlier, Ibanez hit a tying home run in the ninth against Baltimore in Game 3 of the division series and another homer in the 12th to win it.
"If we are going to be good enough, we have to be able to take a punch, and we took a big punch," Leyland said. "We took a right cross in the ninth inning, but we survived it."
In Game 2 on Sunday, New York will start Hiroki Kuroda, who will be pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his big league career. Detroit will send Anibal Sanchez to the mound.
Twenty-five of 42 previous Game 1 winners have gone on to take the AL pennant.
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