After dropping the first two games of the ‘98 season in Anaheim, the Yankees headed north to Oakland to take on an Athletics team that had gone 65-97 the previous season. Although the squad featured the likes of Rickey Henderson and a young Jason Giambi, it looked like a prime series for the Yankees to get themselves back on track — unfortunately, David Cone had a bad night at the Coliseum, giving up seven runs in the Yankees’ third consecutive loss to open the season.
April 4: Yankees 3, Athletics 7 (box score)
Record: 0-3, .000 (3 GB)
Chuck Knoblauch, the only real offensive standout of the game, reached base three times, including a walk to open the contest. After Derek Jeter struck out, however, Knoblauch was picked off at first to take away a chance for Paul O’Neill to hit with a man on, a portent of things to come.
A little more positivity came in the third, as the Yankees — in that soon-to-be-familiar 1998 manner — strung together a Scott Brosius double, a single from Knoblauch to drive him in, and then a Jeter single and O’Neill double. That brought them to a total of three runs, with the trio of run-scoring hits all coming with two outs in the inning. It was 3-0 Yankees, and that was as good as this one got.
Besides the overall loss, this was also one of the first times we saw the former Gold Glove winner Knoblauch struggle with the yips, as he airmailed an easy groundout in the fourth. ‘98 wouldn’t be nearly as bad as the 26-error 1999 campaign, but perhaps the writing was on the wall even in April that Chuck’s right arm just wouldn’t cooperate.
To his credit, Coney actually gets off to a good start, sitting down the first eight A’s he faces before Rafael Bournigal earned himself a single. The cracks didn’t begin to show until the third time through the order — funny how that happens — and the Hall of Famer Henderson brought home two runs in the fifth inning with a single.
It got worse in the sixth, as Ben Grieve led off the inning with a triple. Cone sandwiched a pair of walks around a fielder’s choice that cut down the 1998 AL Rookie of the Year at the plate. With one out and the bases loaded, Scott Spiezio took Coney to deep right for a back-breaking grand slam to make it 6-3, Athletics.
Cone faced just one more batter, allowing a single before being relieved by Darren Holmes. The runner that reached, Bournigal, came around to score after Holmes uncorked a wild pitch later in the inning. Cone’s final line read 5.1 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, and 3 K’s against the same number of walks. By FanGraphs GameScore v2, it would be the fourth-worst outing of an otherwise tremendous five-win season that netted him 20 of the traditional variety.
On offense, the Yankees managed just two more baserunners the rest of the game, bouncing into a double play in the seventh to eliminate the threat of a comeback. Knoblauch also got picked off again, making it quite a weird night for the new man at the keystone. Arguably the best team in the history of baseball stumbled out of the gate at 0-3, with a putrid -15 run differential through the first three games. They would, of course, get better, but for at least those first two weeks, we should all be thankful that internet comment boards were far less popular.