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1998 Yankees Diary, May 13: Bernie is grand as Bombers hang on for a win

Bernie Williams’ grand slam helped lead the Yankees to a win over the Rangers on this day in 1998.

BBA-RANGERS-YANKEES-WILLIAMS Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images

While the 1998 Yankees may have had an eight-game winning streaking snapped earlier this week, they got back on the horse in a hurry with wins over the Twins and Royals. However, a tough test then awaited them as the AL West-leading Rangers were set to come to town.

The week prior, the Yankees had taken two games over the Rangers in Texas, but one of them in particular was a crazy and close battle. Their May 13th game against the Rangers also ended in a Yankees’ win, but it also went right down to the wire.

May 13: Yankees 8, Rangers 6 (box score)

Record: 26-7, .788 (4.5 GA)

The game didn’t start ideally for the Yankees. After a scoreless first inning, starter David Cone quickly ran into some trouble in the second. Eventual MVP Juan González and veteran Will Clark took him deep for back-to-back homers to start the second, giving the Rangers an early lead.

However in the third, the Yankees struck back with a long ball of their own. After Joe Girardi and Chuck Knoblauch opened the innings with two-straight singles, Jeter homered, putting the Yankees in front. The Rangers answered in the fourth when Clark drove home another run, but an even bigger Yankee blast was on the way.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Texas starter Rick Helling quickly got himself into some trouble. He issued a leadoff walk to Jeter, who then moved to third on a Paul O’Neill double. With still nobody out in the inning, Rangers skipper Johnny Oates opted to intentionally walk Tino Martinez to load the bases. It was an understandable strategy play, considering it set up the double play and force outs at all bases. Unfortunately for them, the move also brought Bernie Williams to the plate.

After an iffy first couple weeks of the season, Williams had been on fire for the Yankees in the previous couple weeks. Starting with a three-hit performance on April 21st, Williams had slashed .349/.462/.603 in his last 17 games coming into May 13th. However, one thing he hadn’t really done even in that impressive stretch was hit some long balls. Through the Yankees’ first 32 games of the season, Williams had only hit one in wake of launching 50 bombs between 1996-97.

While dingers were never the most prolific part of Bernie’s game, being at just one in mid-May was a little strange, especially considering that it had only come the day before. In front of the Yankee Stadium crowd — including Wayne Knight of “Seinfeld” fame — Bernie changed that.

The grand slam gave the Yankees a 7-3 lead.

Cone had settled down a bit after his early struggles and manager Joe Torre sent him back out for the seventh inning. Things quickly went a little bad when Hall of Fame catcher Iván Rodríguez led off the inning with a homer. A batter later, Torre would go to the bullpen. Cone ended up allowing four runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings.

Jeff Nelson replaced Cone, but he ran into trouble himself. After Kevin Elster walked, Luis Alicea doubled. At that point, Torre went back to the ‘pen and brought in Mike Stanton. That change would eventually lead to the end of the inning, but not before Mark McLemore singled to get Texas back within a run.

While Darren Holmes got the first two outs of the eighth inning for the Yankees, Torre then turned to Mariano Rivera for a four-out save. That didn’t start out ideally as Rodríguez doubled, but Rivera got Lee Stevens to ground out to finish the eighth.

The Yankees got an insurance run for Rivera as Chuck Knoblauch singled home a run in the bottom of the eighth. In the ninth, Rivera quickly got the first out of the inning. However, Alicea then reached on what is listed in the Baseball Reference box score as a “Double to 1B.” He lined one hard at Martinez, who appeared to get a piece of it, but it ended up skipping past the first baseman and into right field.

After striking out Mike Simms, Rivera then allowed a single to McLemore. It wasn’t enough to score a run, but the Rangers now had the go-ahead run at the plate. However, Mo is Mo, and he got Rusty Greer to roll one over, ending the game.