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1998 Yankees Diary, October 18: Bombers flex muscles in big Game 2 win

El Duque sparkled and every Yankee starter reached base in a 9-3 victory

World Series - San Diego Padres v New York Yankees - Game Two

One night after the Yankees jumped out to a 1-0 World Series lead, thanks in no small part to Tino Martinez’s majestic grand slam, the Bronx Bombers were back at it. A win in Game 2 would have New York firmly ensconced in the catbird seat, while a loss and a split at home would have been tough to take for a club that had rolled its opposition all season.

Joe Torre placed the ball in El Duque’s hands for the pivotal Game 2. In Hernandez’s first outing of the playoffs, he went seven shutout innings against Cleveland in Game 4 of the ALCS. Eight days later, he was again on the mound. Hernandez had shown signs of struggling in the second half of 1998, with an ERA almost a run and a half higher than in the first half. But he showed no signs of vulnerability against Cleveland and, in the biggest start of his young Yankee career, he was again almost untouchable.

October 18, World Series Game 2: Yankees 9, Padres 3 (box score)

Playoffs: Up 2-0 in the World Series (123-50 overall)

The Yankee offense that put up nine runs the night before wasted no time ambushing San Diego starter Andy Ashby. With almost 57,000 fervent fanatics packing the cathedral of baseball, New York put crooked numbers on the board in rapid succession.

After a painless top half of the first, Chuck Knoblauch walked and immediately stole second base. After a Derek Jeter groundout, Paul O’Neill reached on an error by third baseman Ken Caminiti, scoring Knoblauch and giving the Yankees the early lead. After Bernie Williams made the second out of the frame, three consecutive singles from Chili Davis, Tino Martinez, and Scott Brosius plated two more New York runs, giving El Duque an early cushion.

After Hernandez rolled over the Padres in the second, the bats got back to work. Ricky Ledee and Knoblauch started the bottom half with consecutive singles, though the former was thrown out on the front end of a double steal. Pas de probleme, however, as Jeter singled up the middle to score Knoblauch. Two batter later, Bernie broke this one wide open:

Pandemonium in the center-field stands.

Again, El Duque hurled a shutdown inning after his team scored for him, and in the bottom of the third, New York put up another run and in the process ended Ashby’s day. With a runner on third and two out, the sizzling Ledee doubled for his fourth hit in his last five at-bats. It was 7-0, Yankees, and San Diego had to go to their bullpen after only recording eight Yankee outs.

With a runner on third and two out in the top of the fifth, the Padres finally got to El Duque. A double scored San Diego’s first run and cut the lead to six. But not for long. Jorge Posada picked up his batterymate in the bottom of the inning with a two-run big fly, extending the lead to 9-1 with his first career World Series homer.

The Padres were rapidly running out of chances as everyone in the stadium knew who was looming if required late in the game. From there, San Diego managed to keep the Yankee bats quiet, though that’s kind of a case of locking the barn door after the horses already ran away.

Hernandez continued to cruise on the mount until the seventh when the Padres had their best chance to get back in the contest. Two hits and a walk managed to load the bases with two out for Greg Vaughn, who’d hit 50 home runs during the regular season. Undaunted, El Duque showed off the ice in his veins, inducing a harmless popup from Vaughn. Rally ended, and a heck of a cap to Hernandez’s night.

Seven innings of one-run ball in the World Series. That’ll do.

After the game, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn had nothing but accolades for El Duque, noting “He didn’t look rattled... He got ahead. He changed speeds. And there were the little subtle things, like how he moved from one side of the rubber to the other. But you hope the next time you face him, you have a 0-0 game instead of 6-0.’’

Back to the action in this one, the Padres managed two runs off Mike Stanton in the eighth, making the score a little bit more respectable and prompting Torre to turn to Jeff Nelson, who closed this one out, giving the Yankees the first two games of the Fall Classic.

On the front page of the next morning’s New York Times, Buster Olney seemed almost awestruck by the ease with which the Yankees dispatched their playoff opponents.

“Facing the Yankees in the World Series, the Padres look an awful lot like doormats. But then, so does every other team the Yankees play.
The post-season was supposed to provide the ultimate test of greatness for the Yankees. Instead, they are treating the playoffs and the World Series like extra credit, crushing San Diego, 9-3, in Game 2 last night before 56,692 at Yankee Stadium.”

That about sums it up.