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An improbable Yankees loss from 1988

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

A lot can change in baseball in just one at bat.

The Yankees were in Detroit on June 21, 1988. With Jack Morris on the mound for the Tigers, the Yankees took an early lead. They scored one run in the first, and then broke it open with four in the second. Morris was chased from the game, and the Yankees opened up a 5-0 lead.

Al Leiter got the start on the mound for the Yankees. He had thrown three scoreless inning, but didn’t exactly do it very economically. After getting an out and allowing two runners in the fourth, his pitch count was already up to 74 and he was taken out.

Neil Allen came in for him, got out of that jam, and then pitched another scoreless inning in the fifth. The Tigers got on the board in the sixth, but the Yankees were still in control.

After that blip in the sixth, Allen remained solid. He allowed a single in the seventh, but got out of it with a double play. Then he threw a perfect eighth inning. Things were going fine.

In the top of the ninth, the Yankees even picked up an insurance run. Claudell Washington drew a lead-off walk, was balked to second, and then scored when Don Mattingly singled. The Yankees were up 6-1 and were just three outs away from a win.

Allen was sent back out to pitch the ninth. He allowed a single and a walk and was quickly removed from the game. Billy Martin brought in closer Dave Righetti.

Righetti allowed a single to the first batter he faced, loading the bases. However, he then got Pat Sheridan to line out, and struck out Tom Brookens. The Yankees were an out away with a five run lead.

That last out wasn’t exactly an easy task as Lou Whitaker came to the plate. Righetti walked him, brining home a run. Next up was Luis Salazer. He also walked, scoring another run. It was now 6-3, and Martin was forced to go back to the bullpen again.

Cecilio Guante was brought in to face Alan Trammell. Guante had a pretty good season for the Yankees in 1988. This wasn’t his day, however.

Trammell hit a walk-off grand slam. The Yankees somehow lost 7-6.

Guante faced just one batter in this game. He managed to put up a win percentage added of -.908. He essentially lowered the Yankees chances of winning by 91% in one at bat.

Had the Yankees won this game, they would have moved into first place by a half game ahead of the Tigers. Instead they fell 1.5 back. They would end the season 3.5 back in fifth place.


All data courtesy of the Baseball Reference Play Index