The 1996 ALCS was a match-up between two AL East rivals in the Yankees and the Orioles. The series is probably most memorable for Derek Jeter’s game-tying home run in game one, better known as the Jeffrey Maier incident. However, before the two teams met in the playoffs that season, they played a pair of crazy games to open their season series.
Andy Pettitte got the start on April 30, 1996 in Baltimore in the first game of the season between the Yankees and the Orioles. Before Pettitte took the mound, the Yankees’ offense got him some runs to work with. After Jeter led off the game with a single, Paul O’Neill’s two-run home run gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead.
The first Oriole Pettitte faced was Brady Anderson, who promptly led off the game for Baltimore with a triple. After a walk, Rafael Palmeiro brought home Anderson with a sac fly. After getting the second out, Pettitte allowed a pair of singles. On the first, an error by Jim Leyritz allowed a run to score. The second single scored another run, and gave Baltimore a 3-2 lead.
The Yankees came back and scored another two runs in the second, retaking the lead. The first batter Pettitte faced in the second was Chris Hoiles, who homered. It only got worse from there. The Orioles went single, walk, single, single, single off Pettitte, knocking him out of the game. Scott Kamieniecki came in and eventually got out of it, but not before allowing a two-run scoring double. Pettitte went just one inning, allowing eight runs on eight hits. He finished with a game score of 1. The Yankees were now down 9-4.
After a couple scoreless innings, the Yankees’ offense rebounded in the fifth. After two singles and a double scored a run, Orioles’ starter Arthur Rhodes was taken out. Reliever Jimmy Myers didn’t fare much better. A single by Joe Girardi scored two runs, and two batters later, Leyritz hit a two-run home run. The Yankees had come back, and the game was tied at nine.
In the seventh, a three-run Tino Martinez home run gave the Yankees a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Both teams added a run, and the game finished at 13-10 in favor of the Yankees. The game was just nine innings, but because of all the offense it lasted 4:21.
However, the following day’s game went even longer into the night.
Kenny Rogers got the start for the Yankees on May 1st. Like the day before, Anderson led off for Baltimore with a hit. In this game, he led off the game with a home run. The Yankees answered back with three runs in the second to take the lead. The Yankees tacked on another couple runs, and opened up a 5-1 lead in the fifth.
The Orioles chipped away in bottom of the fifth, scoring two runs, but the Yankees added another run in the sixth. However, the Orioles would answer right back scoring another two runs to make it 6-5.
The Yankees’ bullpen got out of a pair of jams in the seventh and eighth, and sent in closer John Wettland in the ninth. The inning started with Mariano Duncan making an error, allowing Gregg Zaun to reach base.
After a bunt moved Zaun to second, a wild pitch from Wettland put the runner 90 feet away. After a walk, a Roberto Alomar sac fly tied the game. A stolen base put the winning run in scoring position, but Wettland eventually got out of it and sent the game to extra innings.
Both teams squandered chances in extras. The Yankees left the bases loaded in the 11th, while the Orioles left a total of seven on base in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings.
In the 13th, the Yankees brought in Pettitte to pitch. His night went a little better this time, as he threw scoreless innings in the 13th and 14th.
Wade Boggs led off the 15th for the Yankees with a single. After Jeter was hit by a pitch, O’Neill grounded out. The Orioles then intentionally walked Ruben Sierra, bringing Martinez up with the bases loaded. Just like the previous night, Martinez hit a home run to break the tie and give the Yankees the lead.
The Yankees added another run, and Pettitte closed it out in the bottom of the 15th. The Yankees won 11-6. The May 1st game was the only relief appearance for Pettitte in 1996, and it ended in a win. Pettitte threw more innings in the relief appearance than he did in his regularly scheduled start.
The two games between the Yankees and Orioles on April 30-May 1, 1996 were crazy, but the best between these two that season was yet to come.