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1998 Yankees Diary, April 29: Cone strikes out 11 as Bombers down Mariners

After an iffy start to the season, Cone put in an impressive display to quiet a good Seattle offense.

David Cone

After returning home to the confines of Yankee Stadium with a series against the Blue Jays in late April 1998, the Yankees were set to welcome the Mariners to town. Just a few weeks prior, the Yankees had faced off against the M’s in Seattle, a series that had helped kickstart their winning run.

That run would continue thanks to some early offense in the Yankees-Mariners’ series opener in the Bronx.

April 29: Yankees 8, Mariners 5 (box score)

Record: 16-6, .727 (0.5 GB)

Early in the April 29th game, it seemed like things were not destined to go in the Yankees’ favor. With David Cone on the mound, Joey Cora led off the game for Seattle with a triple. After striking out Alex Rodriguez, Cone seemed to have gotten another out against one of the Mariners’ big guns as Ken Griffey Jr. popped up a pitch. However, Scott Brosius dropped it, allowing Cora to go home and give the Mariners an early lead. Then, left fielder Tim Raines got a bad read off an Edgar Martinez hit, allowing him to reach with a double. David Segui singled, putting the Yankees in a 3-0 hole before their offense even stepped into the batters’ box.

Though when they finally did, the Yankees answered back. The Yankees’ second batter of the game, Derek Jeter, got things started against Seattle starter Jeff Fassero with a solo homer. Raines then atoned for his fielding miscue with a single. However, he then immediately followed that by seemingly being picked off while attempting to steal second. Instead, Rodriguez made an error on the play, allowing Raines to end up safe at second. The Yankees made Seattle pay for that as, after a Bernie Williams walk, Tino Martinez singled to bring home a second run.

Two innings later, the Yankees’ offense struck again. With two on thanks to a Jeter double and a Russ Davis error on a Williams grounder, Chad Curtis stepped to the plate. On a 2-1 Fassero pitch, Curtis took the offering over the wall in left to give the Yankees the lead.

After things started poorly for Cone, he got into a groove. He would retire all but four of the batters he faced over the rest of his outing, allowing just three more hits and a hit by pitch. Even beyond that, none of those four ever reached scoring position either, as all the hits were singles. Cone ended up going six innings, allowing three runs — only two of which were earned — on six hits. More impressive than that was his control. On the day, Cone threw 79 of his 112 pitches for strikes, and K’d 11 batters. Thanks to an awful start to the season, his ERA for the year still sat above seven, but it was an impressive display from him.

Jorge Posada’s fifth inning solo homer gave the Yankees some breathing room, but Seattle rallied after Cone left. Mike Stanton replaced Cone and quickly allowed Rich Amaral and Joey Cora to reach to start the seventh. He got Rodriguez to ground into a double play, but it also scored Amaral. However, getting getting the bases empty on the double play proved quite important. Griffey followed the DP with a homer, getting the Mariners within a run.

The Yankees answered back in the seventh. Martinez scored Raines on a single against Mariners’ reliever Heathcliff Slocumb — he of the quite consequential 1997 trade with the Red Sox. They got one more run in the bottom of the eighth, but that ended up being more than enough. Jeff Nelson and Mariano Rivera shut the door as the Yankees recorded an 8-5 win.