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‘Don’t cry’: Derek Jeter’s lasting Yankees moment came out of nowhere

Derek Jeter’s storybook career came complete with a Hollywood ending when the Hall of Famer came through with a game-winning single in his final game at Yankee Stadium.

His single to right field in the bottom of the ninth scored pinch-runner Antoan Richardson from second base, setting off another celebration in The Bronx for Jeter. This one was especially unlikely — all the way until the ninth inning.

Coming off the fractured ankle that bothered him throughout 2013, Jeter struggled in 2014 after announcing before the season it would be his last. The Yankees missed the playoffs for a second straight year on Jeter’s farewell tour. He rallied in the season’s last homestand with four straight multi-hit games.

Finally, on Sept. 25, 2014, the Yankees hosted the Orioles in front of 48,613 fans for Jeter’s finale.

He committed a second-inning throwing error, but ended up going 2-for-5 with three RBIs in the 6-5 win.

“In the first inning I was thinking, ‘Please don’t hit it to me,’” Jeter said after the game. “In the last inning I almost lost it… I don’t know how many times I didn’t want the ball hit to me. A couple of times I almost broke down. I almost told [manager] Joe [Girardi] to get me out of here before I cost us the game.”

Fortunately, Jeter remained in the game. He reached on an error in the seventh that gave the Yankees the lead in what looked like his last at-bat. But David Robertson blew a three-run lead in the top of the ninth, giving up a two-run homer to Adam Jones and a game-tying blast to Steve Pearce to extend the game. Jeter was due to hit third in the bottom of the ninth and soon took center stage once again.

Jose Pirela, a utilityman who made his major-league debut three days earlier, started the inning with a leadoff single. Pinch-runner Richardson went to second on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice bunt to bring Jeter to the plate to face right-hander Evan Meek.

Asked what he was thinking when he walked to the batter’s box, Jeter responded: “Don’t cry.”

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Derek Jeter celebrates his game-winning hit.
Derek Jeter celebrates his game-winning hit.Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

With lefty-swinging Brian McCann on deck, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter didn’t have a lefty up in the bullpen, so he never considered walking Jeter — which probably would have caused a riot at the Stadium.

“I’m not thinking, ‘I’m gonna go ahead and pitch to Derek so he can go out on a great note,’” Showalter recently told The Post’s Ken Davidoff of his thinking during the game. “That’s not true.”

With the crowd chanting “Derek Je-ter!” Meek threw a first-pitch cutter that Jeter punched through the right side of the infield, past a diving Kelly Johnson, who was at second base.

“It was the loudest stadium I’ve ever been in. It was so, so loud,” Meek said recently. “It was a first-pitch cutter that stayed up and didn’t really cut. He did what Derek Jeter does.’’

Richardson sped home and dove head first into home with the winning run ahead of Nick Markakis’ throw from right.

An emotional Jeter almost seemed in disbelief. He was mobbed by his team, while former teammates Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre lined up near the dugout to greet him.

“I wouldn’t have believed it myself,’’ Jeter said of the ending that capped his days in pinstripes. “It was above and beyond anything that I’ve ever dreamt of. This was a lot of fun.”

The Yankees closed out the season in Boston, but Jeter said he wouldn’t play shortstop in that last series, preferring to end that part of his career at home. He served as the DH twice in the series and finished his career with a run-scoring infield hit in the third inning on Sept. 28 before being removed for McCann as a pinch-runner.

Still, the ending most people remember came on that night in The Bronx.

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