New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter fractured his ankle and was ruled out of the rest of the Major League Baseball play-offs after a freak accident on Saturday.

Jeter was carried off Yankee Stadium in agony when he slipped and fell while fielding a ball in his team's American League Championship opener against the Detroit Tigers.

The Yankees lost the game 6-4 to trail 1-0 in the best-of-seven series but the result was overshadowed by the injury to one of the game's most accomplished and respected players.

"His ankle's fractured, he's out," Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters.

"They (doctors) talked about a three-month recovery period. It won't jeopardise his career but he will not be playing anymore for us this year."

The 38-year-old Jeter, a five-time World Series winner with the Yankees, hurt the same ankle last week but Girardi said the injuries were not related.

The massive crowd at Yankee Stadium, which had been roaring with excitement when the Bombers came from 4-0 down to tie the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning, instantly knew something was wrong when Jeter dived to retrieve a ground ball at shortstop.

He grimaced as his ankle gave way and was unable to pick himself up off the dirt. He was X-rayed immediately at the ground and Girardi said the scans showed a crack in one of the bones.

"It's pretty emotional," said Girardi. "There is disappointment we didn't win the game and there is disappointment our captain and our leader went down for the rest of the year."

Jeter is almost without peer in modern day baseball and an icon in American sport where he is heavily marketed because of his good guy image.

Such is his standing in the game, even the opposition were distraught by the sight of him being carried off in pain.

"When you think of post season, you think of Derek Jeter," Detroit manager Jim Leyland told reporters. "I am the opposing manager, but fortunately over the years I think there has been a tremendous mutual respect.

"I am very sorry about it, and very sorry to hear about it."

Detroit starting pitcher Doug Fister said: "Anytime anybody in the game of baseball gets hurt...your heart goes out to them."

The Tigers' Delmon Young, who blasted a home run in the eighth inning and drove in the game-winning run in the 12th, said Jeter was an inspiration to all players.

"We're all big Derek Jeter fans since we were younger," said Young.

"We all grew up (playing) backyard baseball, wanting to win the World Series either against the Yankees or getting through the Yankees to get to the World Series."