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1998 Yankees Diary, April 30: Late-inning heroics walk off the Mariners

Tim Raines’ dramatic ninth inning home run set the stage for a Yankee win in extras.

MLB: USA TODAY Sports-Archive RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a win in the series opener against Seattle the night before, the Yankees looked to continue their winning ways in the second game of their set with the Mariners. To do it, they had to overcome a big night from Ken Griffey, Jr., and some shaky work from the bullpen. Thanks to some heroics late in this one, the Bronx Bombers managed to put another notch in the W column.

April 30: Yankees 9, Mariners 8 (box score)

Record: 17-6, .739 (0.5 game lead)

“Martinez’s Single in 10th Ends a Night of Homers.” New Yorkers woke to that headline from Jack Curry in the May 1st edition of the New York Times. And it was an apt headline for a night when balls soared out of Yankee Stadium, especially in the first few innings. Luckily, the Yanks came out on top.

The “Night of Homers” started right away. After David Wells retired Joey Cora and future Yankee Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr. stepped to the dish. Facing a 2-2 count, Griffey unloaded on Boomer and deposited a solo shot deep into the New York night to put the Mariners up by one. As an aside, A-Rod, Griffey, and Edgar Martinez was one heck of a 2-3-4 gauntlet in the heart of the Mariner order.

The Yankees waited a little bit longer to get their party started, but not much. Leading off the bottom of the second, Tino Martinez launched a 2-0 offering from Seattle starter Ken Cloude off the right field foul pole to tie game. Two batters later, Darryl Strawberry did likewise, and New York quickly had a 2-1 lead. Strawberry’s monstrous shot to dead center hit the black hitters’ background. Curry noted in his NYT piece that Straw became only the 12th player to ever manage that.

The lead did not last long. In the top of the third, the Mariners’ gauntlet struck again. First, A-Rod unloaded a solo dinger to tie the contest. Then Griffey followed suit with his second home run of the game, his 28th career round-tripper against the Yankees. Two and a half innings into this one, five balls had already left the yard.

The Yankees reclaimed the lead over the next couple of innings. In both the fourth and fifth, Chad Curtis came to the plate with ducks on the pond. He rapped RBI singles in both opportunities, putting New York back up 4-3. They extended the lead in the sixth, when a Paul O’Neill double scored two runs, and Tim Raines, pinch-hitting for Straw, drove in a third run with a sacrifice fly. It looked like it was getting late early for Seattle, as Yogi might have said.

The M’s were not going gently into the good night, however. They scraped a run across in the seventh to cut the deficit to 7-4. Then, in the eighth, they came all the way back. Three RBI singles, with a run-scoring groundout in the midst, put four runs across for Seattle, leaving them with an 8-7 lead. The key play in the frame: a throwing error by second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. Knoblauch was a couple years from getting the yips, but his gaffe in this one led to a couple of unearned runs.

Raines led off the ninth for the Yankees, down to their final three outs. He got ahead of Bobby Ayala 2-0, and then drove the game-tying home run to right field. The final dinger of the night was also its most dramatic.

After Mariano entered in the tenth and shut Seattle down, the Yankees had another chance to wrap this one up. Ayala plunked Knoblauch, and Derek Jeter laid down a sacrifice bunt. A terrible throw from Ayala to first allowed Jeter to reach, putting two on with none out. O’Neill then knocked his fourth base hit of the night, loading the bases for Tino. Tino did not disappoint. Facing an 0-2 count, he knocked a ball into right field, scoring the winning run and giving the Yankees the hard-earned comeback win.

After the game, Yankee skipper Joe Torre told Curry, “They want to win... You get used to winning. It’s a nice feeling. It was terrific.” Likely also a nice feeling: the Yankee win vaulted them into first place in the AL East. At 17-6, the Yanks sat half a game up on the BoSox, something that seemed pretty unlikely in the depths of the early season doldrums. Could they finish the sweep? Stay tuned.