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Yankees History: The Twins give the 1990 Yankees a nice gift

Turns out, you can score quite a lot of runs in one game, even if they’re all unearned.

New York Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner gives some advic Photo by Vincent Riehl/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The 1990 Yankees played some weird games. The most notorious was probably the one against the White Sox in Chicago on July 1st. Yankees starter Andy Hawkins threw eight no-hit innings, only for the team to still lose. A combination of errors and walks doomed the Yankees to a 4-0 loss despite not allowing a hit all game.

They lost that one and lost a lot in general, finishing 67-95 with the third-most defeats of any team in franchise history. A lot went wrong for them that season. Yet in one other July game, quite literally everything went right.

On July 22nd, 1990, the Yankees were in Minnesota, finishing off a series against the Twins. With Hawkins on the mound again, the Yankees fell behind in the second inning as a sac fly gave the Twins the lead. On the mound for Minnesota was Scott Erickson, who had retired the first six batters he faced. However, he started the third by hitting Roberto Kelly with a pitch, beginning the game’s madness.

Wayne Tolleson then grounded one to short, but Minnesota’s Greg Gagne made an error on a throw, putting two on with nobody out. After a Deion Sanders single loaded the bases, Steve Sax grounded into a double play. While it’s still a good play to get in a bases-loaded, nobody-out spot, the error meant the Twins allowed a run on the play instead of it ending the inning. It especially came back to haunt them when Don Mattingly singled and Óscar Azocar homered. Instead of still trailing 0-1, the Yankees now led 4-1.

After that, the Twins eventually reeled the Yankees back in. Hawkins didn’t come close to reproducing his weird no-hitter, allowing three runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings. While the Yankees even added a run thanks a Shane Mack error, the Twins eventually took a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the eighth. They took the lead thanks in part to a poorly executed rundown just before Mack singled to put Minnesota in front. Down to their last three outs, the Yankees came to the plate in the ninth, and what happened next was one of the most chaotic innings possible.

With Twins closer Rick Aguilera, who had been nearly perfect in save opportunities up to that point, on the mound, Jim Leyritz led off the inning with a single, getting the rally started for the Yankees. Roberto Kelly came up next and he reached after Minnesota third baseman Gary Gaetti committed a throwing error.

Now with two on, Tolleson came up and attempted to lay down a bunt. Tolleson bunted it down the first base line as the Twins’ Kent Hrbek charged it and attempted to get the force out at third. Instead, the throw went skipping into foul territory, allowing Leyritz and Kelly to score. After the Twins got their first out of the inning, Sax doubled, adding on another run.

The Twins then opted to intentionally walk Mattingly, which would be the end of Aguilera’s day. Jack Savage came in for him and recorded another out before Bob Geren came to the plate. Geren singled to left, scoring two more runs, but was thrown out advancing to second, ending the inning. Dave Righetti came in for the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth, throwing a 1-2-3 inning to seal a 10-6 win.

Now reading the game action, you may have realized something: all 10 runs that the Yankees scored were unearned. The Twins committed five errors in total, with several falling under the “would’ve ended the inning earlier and kept ensuing runs off the board” rule.

While 10 runs is the most in a game for the Yankees where they score no earned runs (at least we think, unearned versus earned runs can get a little wonky before 1913), it’s somehow not the MLB record. In a 1985 game against the Astros, the Mets scored sixteen runs — none of which were earned. That is a record that is going to take some doing to break. Back on the Yankees, they had a similar game of nine runs, and a couple of eight, but then since the turn of the millennium they haven’t come close — three runs has been their highest run total since in such a game.

The 1990 Yankees didn’t have a lot go right for them, but on July 22nd, the Twins got them quite a nice gift. An even weirder thing to think about is that the Twins won the World Series the year after this game.


New York Times, July 23, 1990