After a ridiculous regular season, the Yankees got their postseason run off to the perfect start in 1998. With homefield advantage against the Texas Rangers, the Yankees held serve and won the first two games of the American League Division Series in the Bronx. However, they still had work to do as the series shifted to Texas, needing one more win to advance onto the next round.
They would get it in fairly quick fashion.
October 2, ALDS Game 3: Yankees 4, Rangers 0 (box score)
Playoffs: Win ALDS 3-0 (117-48 overall)
On the mound that day for the teams were David Cone and Aaron Sele respectively. While those two may have been lined up in the third spot in their teams’ playoff rotations, early on they both pitched like number ones. Both worked around some trouble at points, but the game went into the fifth inning scoreless. The Yankees had their big chance in the second inning, putting two on with nobody out, only to come up empty. Meanwhile, the Rangers had at least one runner on in all but one of the first five innings, but couldn’t do anything with that. Finally in the sixth, someone found some offense.
After Sele retired Derek Jeter to start the sixth, Paul O’Neill stepped to the plate. On a 1-1 pitch, O’Neill went the other way and a took a pitch over a well-placed Target ad on the left-center field wall.
While Sele then got Bernie Williams, he gave up a single to Tino Martinez and a double to Tim Raines after that, bringing Shane Spencer to the plate. After his ridiculous regular season run, Spencer had gotten his postseason career off to a nice start with a homer in Game 2. Two days later, he added even more to his lore. On the first pitch of the at-bat, he took a Sele offering out to left left, putting the Yankees up 4-0.
Cone came back out for the bottom of the sixth and retired the first two hitters of the inning. However right after that happened, a storm that had been threatening all night finally came down, causing the game to go into a three-hour delay. When play finally resumed, the Yankees went to the bullpen to get the final 10 outs of the game. Graeme Lloyd started things off by replacing Cone and getting the last out of the sixth.
Jeff Nelson was brought in for the seventh and he worked around a walk to throw a scoreless frame. The offense then missed out on a chance to add to their lead by failing to capitalize on an O’Neill single. However, Nelson then followed that up with another scoreless inning, despite allowing a single to Todd Zeile.
In the top of the ninth, a familiar face took the mound for Texas in John Wetteland. The 1996 World Series MVP issued a walk, but got out of the inning to keep the Rangers somewhat in with a chance.
For the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees brought in the man who replaced Wetteland as closer — Mariano Rivera. He got the inning off to a less than stellar start, walking Mark McLemore on four pitches. McLemore would eventually work his way over to third over the course of the inning, but that would be the extent of the Rangers’ rally against Mo. He finished things off getting Will Clark to ground out, clinching the game and the series.
With that, the Yankees were headed back to the ALCS. They still had to wait on their opponent as elsewhere that night, Cleveland had beaten Boston to take a 2-1 lead in the other ALDS. Either way, the Yankees were one step closer to a historic World Series.