One of the defining features of the 1998 Yankees was their ability to come from behind in virtually any scenario. There were probably too many veterans to call the club the comeback kids, but the energy was the same. On this day 25 years ago, that ability was on full display after David Wells surrendered a multi-run lead and the Yankee offense was able to push across enough runs to beat the Tigers.
April 25: Yankees 5, Tigers 4 (box score)
Record: 14-5, .737 (0.5 GB)
The Yankees actually got out ahead of Detroit, putting up three runs in the fourth inning to open the scoring. Brian Moehler no-hit the club through the first three innings, before Tino Martinez broke up the no-no, and broke into the run column, with a solo shot to right field. That opened, if not the floodgates, then perhaps the sluice gates, as Darryl Strawberry tripled home Bernie Williams before Chad Curtis brought Straw in with a double.
As Detroit came to bat though, David Wells, who had similarly been dealing, began to get touched up. Four Tigers came around in the inning, after a pair of singles and Wells’ own throwing error led to the first run. A double and two-run single followed, putting the Tigers up 4-3.
Bill Ripken was the beneficiary of some bad defense, being the run to score on Wells’ throwing error, but he ended up giving that run right back in the sixth as the Yankees came back. After Williams doubled, Strawbs hit a routine ground ball to short and Ripken just couldn’t keep his glove down, letting the ball get past and allowing Bernie to cross the plate and tie the game.
After that bad inning, Wells was on lockdown, needing just 33 pitches to pitch three more clean innings, allowing a single baserunner. With Mariano Rivera back and looming in the bullpen, the Tigers just ran out of chances while the Yankees made the most of the last one they had.
Tino and Bernie went down to start the eighth, both striking out. Darryl Strawberry, in so many ways the star of the show in today’s game, walked on six pitches to represent the go-ahead run at first. In the same game where the 36-year-old hit his first triple in seven years, Strawberry swiped second base with two out to put himself in scoring position, and promptly came home on Curtis’ RBI single.
Strikeout, popout, groundout. Even two days removed from an IL stint, Mo was as automatic as it gets, needing just a dozen pitches to sit down 6-7-8 in the Tigers order and record the save. The Red Sox would eke out a win over Cleveland to stay just a half-game ahead of the Yankees in the AL East, but this relentless grinding down matched with an ice-cold bullpen, the hallmarks of the 1998 Yankees, were on display against a Detroit ballclub that was doomed to finish in last place. Those same traits would be brought to bear against the then-division-leading Sox before long.