With a dominant ALDS behind them, as well as a convincing victory in the first game of the Championship Series, the often dominant ‘98 Yankees were rolling into Game 2. The Bombers would send out David Cone in an effort to extend their series lead, and as he had shown so many times throughout the year, he was the right man for the job. Coney was off to a good start in the postseason, going 5.2 scoreless in the third game of the Division series.
He’d face off with Charles Nagy for Cleveland, who had an unfortunate postseason past. He was, however, also coming off of a gem in his first start of the postseason, where he gave up one run over eight innings against the Red Sox. The pitching matchup would not disappoint, and it would be the story of this game until it reached deep into the night.
Playoffs: Tied 1-1 in ALCS (117-49 overall)
Both right-handers had the good stuff working early in Game 2, as the bats were stifled in the first few innings. Cone got three outs in the air in the first, while Nagy worked around Derek Jeter’s one-out double. The second was similarly quiet, as Cone notched his first K of the evening, and the same went for the third, an inning that was entirely wrapped up in less than 20 pitches.
The seal was broken, however, in the top of the fourth, by a future Yankee in David Justice. With one out in Cleveland’s half of the fourth, Justice deposited an 0-1 pitch into the right field seats to give his squad their first lead of the series. Cone would follow this by loading the bases on a pair of walks and a Travis Fryman single, but would ultimately get out of the jam unscathed.
Paul O’Neill did his job in answering, leading off the bottom half with a double, but Nagy navigated the Bombers’ 4-5-6 with ease to close out the frame. With 1-2-3 innings from Cone and Nagy again in the fifth and sixth, this high-stakes game continued to buzz right along. Cone was clean again in the top of the seventh, and his Yankee teammates were finally able to break through in the bottom half.
Bernie Williams led things off with a single, and was followed by a Tino Martinez walk. Scott Brosius was the man to finally tally a run for New York, as he scored Williams by lacing a double into left field to knot things up at one. It also ultimately knocked Nagy out of the game, finishing with 6.2 innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts.
David Cone had one more in him, as he went back out for the eighth. Omar Vizquel reached with a one-out triple, but the veteran righty promptly induced a pair of groundouts to keep this game tied headed toward the ninth.
Mariano Rivera came on in the ninth to keep things squared, and that he did, setting Cleveland down in order with a pair of strikeouts. The Yankees came close in the bottom half, with Tim Raines reaching on a single and Scott Brosius with an intentional walk following a stolen base. But, with one out, Paul Shuey induced a critical double-play ball by Jorge Posada, and this game was headed for extras.
The tenth was quiet on both sides, and though Chili Davis reached for the Yanks in the 11th, no drama once again. Things could only stay quiet for so long though, as things went off the rails in the 12th.
Jim Thome led things off with a single, and was lifted in favor of pinch-runner Enrique Wilson. Fryman followed with a good bunt down the first baseline, a bunt that would become etched into the memory of Yankees fans forever:
In what could have been a largely inconsequential play, Cleveland ended up taking the lead in Game 2. After Jeff Nelson fielded the ball and hit Fryman in an attempt to throw, Chuck Knoblauch stood motionless arguing that Fryman interfered. All the while, the ball trickled into right field, and Wilson stumbled around third to score all the way from first for the go-ahead run. With Cleveland loading the bases with a hit-by-pitch and a walk, they added two more on a Kenny Lofton single, and in rather sickening fashion, the Yanks had lost control of the game.
Michael Jackson came on to finish things for Cleveland in the bottom of the 12th, and despite Knoblauch ironically reaching on an error in the inning, the Yankees were held at just one run, and this series was all tied up.
Had this series ended differently, this game and the mistake that its remembered for would be far more infamous. But luckily it was just one game in the grand scheme, and this series was headed to Cleveland for Game 3.