Headed into this day’s matchup with the last place Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees were still rolling. Their division lead was creeping upward, and they were coming off as good a game as a team can have: a 4-0 victory on the back of David Wells perfect game. That sort of historic prelude is difficult to match, but on May 19th, the Yanks and O’s did just that, as the East rivals slugged it out in the Bronx, literally. The matchup was far from perfect, but a late comeback with a splash of drama led New York to victory.
May 19: Yankees 9, Orioles 5 (Box score)
Record: 29-9, .763 (Up 4.5)
The Yankees tasked David Cone with following up his fellow David’s masterpiece two days before, against Doug Johns, who would toe the rubber for Baltimore. Both starters worked scoreless first innings, but this game would begin to hit its stride in the second.
In the Orioles’ turn, after a Rafael Palmeiro double, Harold Baines lined a single to center, scoring a run and giving the O’s an early advantage. With runners on second and third two batters later, Chris Hoiles lined a ball the looked destined to extend Baltimore’s lead. Chad Curtis had other ideas, as he snared it off the shoestrings and doubled up B.J. Surhoff at second to kill the rally and end the inning.
The Yankees wouldn’t stay down for long, however, as Scott Brosius doubled and advanced to third on an errant pickoff attempt. Joe Girardi would do his job, as he grounded a ball up the middle that allowed Brosius to cross the plate and square things at one. Derek Jeter looked to keep things rolling with two outs, launching a ball to right-center, only to have Jeffrey Hammonds make a leaping grab at the wall, taking a chunk of it with him on his way down.
The birds kept plugging away in the third, scoring three more on a Roberto Alomar double and subsequent Baines single to center. The score would stay at 4-1 into the fourth, where the Orioles would add even more. After Mike Bordick doubled and advanced to third, Hammonds would make his mark once again, knocking in the run with a sacrifice fly.
Those five runs seemed costly at the time, but Cone would settle in a bit after the fourth. In the fifth and sixth innings, he would set down the O’s in order with three strikeouts. Nonetheless, the game felt like it was all Baltimore. Coney would finish with five earned runs over six innings, with four K’s and a trio of walks on the resume.
Darren Holmes kept the trend going out of the ‘pen with a scoreless seventh, and the Yanks would get to work in their half. Chuck Knoblauch led things off with a double, and Paul O’Neill followed it with one of his own two batters later. Tim Raines would eventually knock in O’Neill as well with a single to left to bring the deficit to just two. Mike Stanton pitched a clean first half of the eighth, but the second half would be anything but.
Jorge Posada and Knoblauch were on base courtesy of walks, stationed at first and second with two outs. O’Neill cashed in on the opportunity and slashed a ball the other way to score Posada and bring the Yanks within one. Armando Benitez would come in out of the Baltimore ‘pen, and this game’s story would be told in three subsequent pitches.
The first, to Bernie Williams in a 2-1 count, would be demolished into the third deck in right field, giving New York their first lead of the night. Bernie knew it the second he made contact, and Benitez did not seem to care for his certainty on the matter. His next pitch hit Tino Martinez in the center of the back, Benitez was immediately ejected, and chaos ensued in the Bronx:
Benches and bullpens cleared, and punches were thrown within a few seconds. The above video gives a full picture, but this was one of the ugliest and most drawn-out baseball brawls you will ever see — one that had been years in the marking since Martinez had been drilled by Benitez in similar situations in the past. Nearly everyone was involved (especially relievers Graeme Lloyd and Jeff Nelson, as well as a furious Darryl Strawberry), and the action even spilled into the dugout before things cooled down.
Order would eventually be restored after around 15 minutes, but the future Hall of Famer Raines would deliver a metaphorical punch on the very next pitch, launching a ball into the right field bleachers to put the Yankees up 9-5. As ugly as it may have been, innings as gratifying as the eighth surely was for the Yanks don’t come around all that often.
After what probably felt like an eternity, Stanton returned to the hill in the top of the ninth looking to close things down. He would do just that, ending the Orioles’ presumably frustrating night with just eight pitches. It was a wild and dangerous evening for the Yankees, but they escaped with a victory, and somehow followed a perfect game with yet another remarkably memorable game for this remarkably memorable squad.