Seven days after starting their second big win streak of April north of the border in Toronto, the 1998 Yankees welcomed the Blue Jays to the Bronx for a quick two-game set. Future Yankee starter Roger Clemens would get the ball for the Blue Jays, while a member of the Core Four, Andy Pettitte, took the mound for the Bombers, in what would be one of the great pitching duels of the season.
April 27: Yankees 1, Blue Jays 0 (box score)
Record: 15-5, .750 (0.5 GB)
For those of us born in the late 1990s and for whom the Yankees teams of the early 2000s are the ones that our fandom evolved and took shape in, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte will forever be linked. Clemens was the first ace of the Yankees staff that I actively remember, and Pettitte was the No. 2 starter. Both pitchers left the Yankees for the then-National League, not yet archrival Houston Astros after the 2003 season, a dual departure that, in my opinion, directly resulted in the lowest point in modern Yankees history. Both then returned for the 2007 season to a team desperate for pitching.
On this day, though, they stood on opposite sides, and in very different places career-wise. Pettitte was a young lefty, the No. 1 starter on the Yankees staff, who had been a Cy Young finalist the previous two years and who looked like he was at the start of a Hall of Fame career. Clemens, on the other hand, was the Justin Verlander of his day, the reigning AL Cy Young with three others (plus one MVP award) already in his trophy case and, at the age of 35, still had three more in his future (including the 1998 award).
Anyone who wants to understand just how dominant Clemens was at his height should look at this game. The ought-to-be-a-Hall-of-Famer struggled with his command, walking six batters in seven innings of work. Even so, however, he allowed just three hits, working around trouble thanks to his eight Ks. Only in the third were the Yankees able to scratch a run across, as they loaded the bases with nobody out thanks to a Chuck Knoblauch walk, Derek Jeter single, and Paul O’Neill walk. While Tino Martinez drove in Knoblauch with a sacrifice fly, the other two runners were stranded, as Clemens fanned Bernie Williams and Tim Raines to stem the bleeding.
Pettitte likewise constantly had traffic on the basepaths, as he allowed seven hits across 5.2 innings. He managed, however, to avoid the big hit: not only were all seven of the hits singles, only one — a Shawn Green infield single in the fifth — came with a runner in scoring position. Because of this, the Blue Jays only truly threatened once, in the top of the sixth, as Jose Canseco and Carlos Delgado came to the plate with runners on the corners and nobody out. But Pettitte buckled down, sending both hitters down swinging before handing the ball off to Jeff Nelson, who struck out Mike Stanley to end the threat.
Although Nelson made things interesting in the seven inning by allowing a pair of singles to lead off the frame, both bullpens shut down the offenses, and 1-0 the score would remain. Mariano Rivera, fresh off the injured list with an injury that delayed his start to the season, notched his second save of the season, as the Yankees extended their winning streak to six games. Rather surprisingly, though, the Yankees still trailed the Boston Red Sox in the division, as their 17-6 record put them half a game ahead in the standings.