Jeter's three-run homer capped a five-run rally in the eighth inning and the Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals 9-7 on Tuesday to win their club-record ninth straight home opener.
New York wasted a 4-1 fourth-inning lead and trailed 7-4 in the eighth, when it loaded the bases against Andrew Sisco (0-1) on a single wrapped around two walks. Robinson Cano hit an RBI groundout and Bernie Williams punched a run-scoring single to left.
"The season doesn't officially start 'til you get this one out of the way," Jeter said. "Fortunately, we were able to sneak this one out."
Rivera hit Mike Sweeney on the hand with a pitch in the ninth, forcing the designated hitter from the game and putting two runners on with one out. But the right-hander struck out Reggie Sanders and caught Doug Mientkiewicz's soft looper for the final out.
Kansas City lost its 12th straight at Yankee Stadium dating to August 2002. Sanders and Shane Costa homered for the Royals, who couldn't overcome nine walks.
Jason Giambi hit a three-run homer in the first inning off struggling Joe Mays, and Damon jump-started New York's early offense with an opposite-field double and a walk in his first two plate appearances.
With Kansas City trailing, Sanders homered off Chien-Ming Wang
in a three-run fourth and Angel Berroa grounded into a go-ahead double play after the Royals put their first three runners on in the sixth.
Tanyon Sturtze relieved Wang starting the seventh, and Costa sent his first pitch into the first row of the right-field seats for a 6-4 lead. Mark Grudzielanek doubled and, one out later, Sanders hit an RBI single off Alex Rodriguez's glove at third.
Mays walked five in 2 2/3 innings, throwing 31-of-59 pitches for balls. Mike Wood came in and escaped a bases-loaded jam when Jorge Posada hit a squibber that the reliever picked up and threw to first.
Hall of Famer Yogi Berra threw out the ceremonial first pitch and Reggie Jackson was on hand, but Bob Sheppard's distinctive voice was missing from the home opener for the first time since 1950. The public address announcer, who started with the Yankees in 1951, threw out his left hip Monday night at his Long Island home. He will miss the three-game series against the Royals and hopes to be back April 21.
Giambi had been 3-for-18 (.167) with no extra-base hits before his first-inning homer, which landed in the right-field bleachers and earned him a curtain call from the sellout crowd of 54,698, which included mayor Michael Bloomberg, who watched from a front-row seat.
Mark Teahen had an RBI double in the second, but Mays walked four in the third, including Hideki Matsui with the bases loaded. In Matsui's first home game with the Yankees, he hit a grand slam off Mays in 2003.
Following Sanders' homer, Berroa and John Buck hit run-scoring singles.
There was a moment of silence before the game for Maggie Dixon, the Army women's basketball coach who died last week at age 28. ... Former Yankees catcher John Flaherty, who retired with Boston during spring training, started as a pregame and postgame announcer for the YES Network. ... The Yankees won eight straight home openers from 1920-27.