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1998 Yankees Diary, April 6: Doomed, I tell ya, DOOMED

The 1998 Yankees fell to 1-4, as an “old” Jamie Moyer mows down lineup.

Seattle Mariners v New York Yankees Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The 1998 season did not get off on the right foot for the Yankees. After getting swept in a two-game set by the Anaheim Angels — a team that would win 29 fewer games than the Yankees — arguably the greatest team of all-time dropped the first game to the Oakland Athletics before finally getting rid of the goose egg in the win column. With the potent Yankees lineup dropping a nine spot against Mike Oquist and the A’s bullpen, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the offense was about to pull itself out of its early-season slump and come alive.

You’d also be very, very, very wrong.

April 6: Mariners 8, Yankees 0 (box score)

Record: 1-4, .200 (3.5 GB)

In a matchup filled with future Hall of Famers — Derek Jeter for the Yankees, Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., and potentially Alex Rodriguez for the Mariners — what may be most fascinating is the pitching matchup. Andy Pettitte, the young lefty who finished top-five in the Cy Young voting the previous two seasons (including a runner-up campaign in 1996) went to the mound for the Yankees, making his second start of the season; he had been roughed up in his first outing, having given up four runs in six innings. Opposing him was a 35-year-old Jamie Moyer. Already in his 12th season, he too struggled in his first outing of 1998, surrendering seven runs on 11 hits in 4.2 innings against Cleveland.

At the time, it was a matchup of opposites, one young pitcher establishing himself as a top-flight starter in the league, the other an aged veteran on what should have been the tail end of his career. Despite being nine years younger, however, Andy Pettitte actually retired first, hanging up the cleats for the first time after the 2010 season at the age of 39; after Pettitte’s return, both players officially retired for good after the 2013 season.

Much like he would edge out Pettitte in career longevity, Moyer won the battle of the lefties that Monday evening in Seattle. While Moyer’s defense did him no favors — the Mariners committed three errors on the night — the crafty lefty absolutely stifled the Yankees lineup, scattering three hits across seven innings while striking out 11. He got into trouble in the third inning, loading the bases by surrendering a one-out double to Chuck Knoublach, walking Derek Jeter, and drilling Paul O’Neill — a Bernie Williams K and a nice play by left fielder Glenallen Hill to rob Tino Martinez of an extra-base hit would keep the Yankees scoreless. The Yankees managed just four more baserunners after that.

Pettitte, on the other hand, found the Mariners’ loaded lineup a bit of a handful. Joey Cora led off the bottom of the first with a double, coming around to score on a Ken Griffey Jr. single to right. Edgar Martinez worked a walk to put runners on first and second with one away, and David Segui followed that up with an RBI single of his own. Former Yankee Jay Buhner grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to stop the bleeding, but the damage was already done.

For the next few innings, Pettitte managed to keep them off the board, although he never looked quite as dominant as Moyer did in the outing. Seattle struck again in the fifth, courtesy of what would become a familiar face in the Bronx. After Russ Davis opened the inning with a double to left field and advanced to third on a Joey Cora sacrifice bunt, Alex Rodriguez came to the plate and did, well, Alex Rodriguez things.

That was a lot more fun when A-Rod was doing that in pinstripes. While Pettitte would fan Griffey Jr. and get Martinez to fly out to center, once again, the damage was already done, and it was 4-0 Mariners.

That’s all Seattle would need, but they weren’t done yet. Manager Joe Torre brought in rookie reliever Mike Buddie for the bottom of the eighth, making his major league debut. If you’re a fan of college sports, that name might seem familiar, and for good reason: he is the former athletic director at Furman University and the current AD at West Point. Unfortunately for him, his time on the mound wasn’t quite as successful as his career in sports administration. He walked the first batter he faced, then allowed a single, and then after inducing a flyout, allowed another single to load the bases. Dan Wilson drove a double into the left field gap to clear the bases before coming around to score on a Russ Davis double to extend the lead to 8-0.

If you look at the box score, you might think that the Yankees showed some fight in the top of the ninth, as technically, they did get two baserunners. However, one of those runners reached on an E6, the other by a walk, and both Jorge Posada and Scott Brosius were put down in short order to close out the game and drop the Yankees to 1-4. Had Pinstripe Alley existed at the time, the comments section would have been in full-blown meltdown mode — after just five days, the 1998 season was doomed.