The hallmark of a great team is blowout wins and close losses, and this series in Boston showed just that for the 1998 Yankees. In their first trip to Fenway Park that season, they dropped a close 5-4 opener to the Red Sox, before rebounding the next day with a blowout. Chuck Knoblauch and Scott Brosius combined to drive in seven runs, but that was only part of the team’s output in the big 12-3 win.
May 23: Yankees 12, Red Sox 3 (box score)
Record: 32-10, .762 (up 5.0)
The Red Sox actually managed to hold off the Yankees for one inning, as we were scoreless headed into the second. From there, Darryl Strawberry kicked off an onslaught with a single, stolen base, and moving to third on a wild pitch. Chad Curtis and Brosius had back to back singles to set up Chuck Knoblauch, whose grand slam into right-center took Boston out almost before they had a chance to get in.
Now down 5-0, the Red Sox were unable to respond in the home half. David Wells needed just 12 pitches to ice them out in the bottom of the second, exactly the kind of quick inning needed to get that Yankee lineup more swings. Brosius rewarded Wells’ quickness with a two-run double to center to push the lead to seven.
Wells ended up with seven innings under his belt, really only making two mistakes that both came in the fourth. Mo Vaughn took him deep on a 1-2 pitch to lead off the inning, and after a strikeout and Troy O’Leary single, John Valentin also went yard with two strikes. Those three runs would be all the Red Sox managed on the night.
Of course this was David Wells’ followup to his perfect game a week prior, and Boomer called the outing in Boston the most nerve-wracking of his career. He wasn’t perfect, just more than good enough to win, and set at the time the AL record for consecutive batters retired.
The offense didn’t stop for the Yankees though. They loaded the bases in the sixth thanks to an error, single and intentional walk, then scored two more runs without even getting a hit. Curtis watched Paul O’Neill come home on a passed ball before Curtis and Brosius walked, Scott’s bringing in Bernie Williams.
Strawberry had the coup de grâce an inning later, knocking Derek Jeter in with an RBI double before Straw added a second run-scoring two bagger in the ninth. The bottom four hitters in the lineup reached base 11 times, evidence of just how deep the ‘98 squad was. When the top of the order is made up of Hall of Famers, near-HoF cases and Hall of Very Goods, and the bottom gets on a dozen times a game, you’re impossible to plan against.
I think that was probably the hardest thing about facing this team — obviously I would have hated to pitch against Jeter or hit against Mariano Rivera. But the way that you just can’t gameplan something against them, because every player hits and every pitcher gets outs, there isn’t an underbelly you can take advantage of, must have been a terrifying prospect for the rest of baseball.