Yesterday’s 1998 diary was filled with doom and gloom, and for good reason, as the Yankees got shut out while the pitching staff gave up eight runs. There was even some vague chatter back then that ever-impatient owner George Steinbrenner might consider a change from incumbent Joe Torre. The manager was popular and a World Series champion just a year and a half prior, but given Steinbrenner’s history, you just never knew for sure.
April 7th was a new day in 1998, however, as the Yankees’ bats woke up against the star-studded Mariners after a forceful pregame pep talk from Torre, with contributions from David Cone (who encouraged them to play with an edge and find some way to “make it personal” à la Michael Jordan). David Wells got the start for the Yankees, while Jim Bullinger toed the rubber for the M’s. It was a slugfest in the Pacific Northwest, where the Yanks ultimately took the victory after jumping out quick and powerfully.
April 7: Yankees 13, Mariners 7 (box score)
Record: 2-4, .333 (3.5 GB)
That whole “bats waking up” thing became evident before the people of Seattle even found their seats, as Chuck Knoblauch took a Bullinger pitch over the wall on the very first pitch of the game. They weren’t done there either, as the Yanks deposited two more long balls in the frame, first from Darryl Strawberry, and then from Jorge Posada.
The Mariners scraped a run across in their half of the inning, and New York had a comfortable 6-1 lead at the end of the first. The Yanks were able to score another run in the third inning, and then four more in the fourth. These were on the back of yet another home run from Darryl Strawberry.
As mentioned, Wells started the game for New York. He was able to get through the first four innings allowing just run, but his good fortune wouldn’t last forever. The lefty finished with a clunky line of six earned runs in as many innings, on nine hits and three walks. He pitched into the seventh, but wasn’t able to retire any M’s hitters. But if Wells’ line was a clunker, then I’m not sure what you’d call Bullinger’s line of 10 earned runs and 12 hits over just 3.1 innings of work.
In the fifth inning, the Mariners were able to get their second run of the game on Alex Rodriguez’s second home run of the series. They followed it in the next inning with two more on the back of another homer, this time from Robert Perez. In the seventh, Seattle was threatening to make it a ballgame again with the bases loaded and the deficit cut to just five. Thankfully, Jeff Nelson was able to put out the flames by striking out leadoff hitter Joey Cora to end the seventh.
The final score of the contest would be 13-7, as the Yankees finished with 18 hits on the day as well.
This was a much-needed victory for the Yankees. A 2-4 start to the year might just be some tough luck, but 1-5 would start to make you worry (even if it’s unreasonable). The fashion in which they won was particularly reassuring for the Yankees as well. The night prior, they got shutout by Jamie Moyer and the Mariners pitching staff, so following it with a 13-run win surely eases the tension at least a little.
The story of the 1998 Yankees is a lot about coming back from a rough start. On the heels of a game that cast a lot of doubt on the abilities of this team, a high-scoring win with a bunch of homers does a lot of good. Though the ‘98 Yankees would eventually blow all expectations out of the water, a nice win on April 7th helped temporarily right the worrisome path of the ship after a tough loss.