On the heels of an impressive but ceased winning streak, and a nice win on a late comeback, the Yankees went into the second game of a series in Toronto with first place in sight. New York sent Ramiro Mendoza out to the mound to try and secure a series win against the Blue Jays. The Jays tabbed Erik Hanson for the start against the star-filled Yankee lineup. These American League East rivals needed more than nine innings to decide a winner the previous night, and that may have been a bit of foreshadowing for this evening’s contest as well.
April 21: Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3 (Box score)
Record: 11-5, .688 (0.5 GB)
The tight extra-inning game the night prior not only righted the very briefly misdirected ship, but it was also a sign of things to come for the Jays and Yanks. The Yankees were looking to notch their 10th win in their last 11 games, with Mendoza tasked to help get them there. He’d started two games up to this point in the season, both of which had been clunkers for the most part, but you wouldn’t quite guess that after seeing his solid performance north of the border. In the other dugout, Hanson was making just his second start of the ‘98 season, with his first being an excellent one against the Rangers.
Both starters got off to the night on the right foot, hurling scoreless frames in both the first and second innings. Both lineups were able to get their first runs across in the third, however, with the Yankees’ coming on a Derek Jeter home run to right field. Neither team was able to build on it though, as the game headed to the fourth knotted at one a piece.
In the top of the fifth, New York was threatening with one out and runners on. Paul O’Neill promptly lined a ball destined for center field, had Hanson’s glove not stood in the way. He snagged the line drive and quickly doubled the runner off of first base, killing the Yankees’ rally in the fifth.
Flash to the top of the seventh, where the Bombers were once again threatening to break the 1-1 tie with the bases loaded. This time, Tino Martinez got the opportunity and did not waste it, as he singled up the middle to score Jeter and Jorge Posada. The base hit put the Yankees up 3-1, and knocked Hanson out of the game. The right-hander finished with a line of three earned runs over 6.2 innings, despite giving up 11 hits. For the Yankees, Mendoza was able to work a 1-2-3 seventh, and faced one batter in the eighth, but was done after that. He would finish with a very solid two runs over seven innings with a pair of strikeouts.
In the top of the eighth, the Yankees were headed for an even bigger lead, until Blue Jays shortstop Alex Gonzalez turned a sparkling double play up the middle. In their turn, Toronto punched back with an RBI double off the bat of noted Blue Jay José Canseco, and two batters later with a run-scoring single from Ed Sprague to knot things back up at three.
Both bullpens were able to keep the score there, and force yet another game into extras. The Yankees lineup wasted no time in bonus baseball, however. After Martinez reached on an error, Bernie Williams laced a triple over the center fielder’s head to give them the lead. Tim Raines, pinch-hitting for Darryl Strawberry, followed it up with a sac fly to add an insurance run and put the Yankees up 5-3.
Mike Stanton, who got New York through the ninth unscathed, came back out for the 10th, and shut the Jays down in order. He secured himself a win in the books, and a 5-3 win for the Yankees in 10 innings.
Winning two extra-inning games in a row seems good for morale, on top of the fact that the Yankees were already rolling. This was their 10th win in their last 11 games, on the back of some solid pitching performances and timely hitting. It secured another series win, and helped them keep pace with the first-place Red Sox, as the forgettable start to the season felt like an even more distant memory.