NEW YORK - Derek Jeter was satisfied with getting a home run on the first pitch of his second return from the disabled list and getting through the game without any physical problems.
What made it even better was getting a win.
Alfonso Soriano took care of that aspect, getting the game-winning single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting the Yankees to a 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday afternoon in front of their third sellout crowd of the season.
"I try to do whatever I can to help our team win," Jeter said. "Even if I didn't hit a home a run if we won this game, I'd feel the same. It feels good to contribute. The first of anything is difficult to get, the first hit, the first home run, the first RBI, the first game.
"It feels great to contribute but more importantly we won. "I wouldn't have felt great if we lost."
Jeter homered on the first pitch he saw from Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore with one out in the first inning, driving a high outside fastball into the first row of the right-center-field seats by the Yankee bullpen. That marked his first home run since Sept. 9 at Baltimore and first at home since Aug. 27 against Toronto.
"I just wanted to get a pitch to hit," Jeter said. "Fortunately it was a fastball away."
"The home run to Jeter, that's like the perfect pitch that I know he likes to hit," Moore said.
More importantly, it sparked a three-run inning that helped the Yankees win for the seventh time in their last 18 games. It also marked first Yankee home run by a right-handed hitter in 28 games since June 25.
"I played with him 2001-2003 and nothing's changed," Soriano said of Jeter's dramatic return.
"It's hard to put your finger on exactly why, but he's a winner," New York manager Joe Girardi said of Jeter's presence.
Still, the Yankees found themselves searching for another run and trying to avoid extra innings after Jeter scored on Soriano's two-run home run in the third.
Soriano took care of that against hard-throwing left-handed reliever Jake McGee (2-3) with runners at first and second in the ninth inning. McGee walked Brett Gardner, then intentionally walked Jeter following a wild pitch. However McGee struck out Robinson Cano on three pitches.
On the next pitch, Soriano slapped a single to left out of the reach of shortstop Yunel Escobar, who had been shifted slightly.
"I said thank god because I didn't want to go out there and play extra innings." Jeter said. "I was tired but I was happy for Sori. I've never left here and came back, but I'm happy for him. I had a lot of great memories with Sori and it was almost like it was old times."
"We were just looking for a ground ball and we got it," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "We were just very unlucky with ground balls today being the wrong spot."
Soriano's hit and four-hit game invoked memories of 2003 when he last played with Jeter. It was his 13th career walk-off hit, fourth with the Yankees and first since June 18, 2003 against Tampa Bay.
"It feels great," Soriano said. "It's a very exciting moment."
Appropriately enough, Mariano Rivera (2-2) picked up the win. He recorded three groundouts to second and then watched as Soriano earned a Gatorade shower from Gardner for getting the biggest hit of the game.
"When I see Mariano pitching and Jeter hitting it is like old times in the present because we played together for three years and now after 10 years we come back and we are still playing together," Soriano said.
Rivera's performance capped a stellar day by the Yankee bullpen. Preston Claiborne, Boone Logan and David Robertson combined on five scoreless innings after starter Phil Hughes labored through four-plus innings and allowed five runs and nine hits.
Rays rookie Wil Myers had his first career two-home run game, hitting a three-run shot off Hughes in the third that staked Tampa Bay to a 3-1 lead. Myers then slugged a solo shot that tied the game at 5-5.
After the Rays got a dominant two-hitter from Chris Archer Saturday, Moore labored through a 91-pitch outing. Seeking his 15th victory, Moore was tagged for five runs and eight hits in five innings as he failed to win his seventh consecutive start.
NOTES: The Yankees held a pregame ceremony honoring Hideki Matsui for his seven years with the team that culminated with him becoming the MVP of the 2009 World Series. Matsui said that signing with the Yankees was the greatest moment of his life, and GM Bran Cashman said: "It's a pleasure to be here to talk about such a wonderful human being. Hideki represents everything the Yankees aspire to be and that's a credit to his family and his country." ... The Yankees said IF Jayson Nix will be activated for Tuesday's game in Los Angeles after he missed nearly a month with a hamstring injury. ...Tampa Bay 2B Ben Zobrist had the day off after fouling a ball off his right foot Saturday. ,.. DH Luke Scott returned to the Tampa Bay lineup after sitting out Saturday with soreness in the back/neck area. ... After the game, the Yankees announced that IF David Adams was optioned to Class AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre to make room for Nix.