Good teams find ways to win. When their starter gets lit up, the lineup absolutely batters the opponent’s pitching staff to win in a shootout. When the other team’s starter has everything working for him, they take advantage of unforced errors to plate a run or two while their own starter twirls a shutout. No mater what that day’s script entails, the good team typically finds a way to come out ahead.
The 1998 Yankees were a historically good team, and were able to overcome bad days on the mound or at the plate much more often than not. On this particular night, however, everybody came ready to play. Coming off two straight blowout wins against the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees rolled into Chicago having won seven of their last eight games. The absolute freight train did not lose any momentum, securing a 12-0 victory over the White Sox, their third-straight win of nine runs or more against a team named after an article of clothing you wear on your feet.
May 25: Yankees 12, White Sox 0 (box score)
Record: 34-10, .773 (7.0 game lead)
From the jump, the Yankees lineup continued right where they left off in Boston. Chuck Knoblauch opened the game by working a walk off starter Jaime Navarro. Derek Jeter followed that up by grounding a single through the right side, sending Knoblauch to third. Paul O’Neill doubled into left-center field, plating both baserunners; he would remain at second as Bernie Williams reached on an infield single before stealing third while Darryl Strawberry was at the plate. Straw himself walked to load the bases.
Jorge Posada was the next batter, and the ascendant catcher drilled a single up the middle to drive in O’Neill and Williams. That wasn’t all; he and Strawberry advanced to second and third, respectively, on a throwing error by center fielder Mike Cameron. Navarro finally got an out on a Chad Curtis popup, but that was the only man he’d retire on the night. Scott Brosius followed by lining a two-run single up the middle to make it 6-0, driving the veteran right-hander from the game.
Tom Fordham, on in relief, quickly retired Dale Sveum and Knoblauch to end the inning, but the damage was done. Before even stepping foot on the mound, Hideki Irabu was spotted a six-run lead.
Truth be told, however, Irabu did not need it. The right-hander was arguably the Yankees’ best pitcher over the first two months of the season despite missing two weeks with an injury, posting a 1.40 ERA and allowing opposing hitters to slash just .170/.257/.289 against him across his first six starts of the season. On the 25th, he didn’t bring his A game; he brought his A+ game. Despite allowing 11 baserunners—six hits and five walks—Irabu kept the White Sox off the board; in fact, after a single and a pair of walks loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, Chicago did not even advance a runner to third base until the ninth inning.
While their pitcher kept rolling, the Yankees lineup did not take the rest of the evening off either. In the top of the fourth, Jeter hit a one-out triple that brought home Knoblauch; he himself would score on a Williams single that drove Fordham from the game. Two innings later, Knoblauch started yet another rally, leading off the sixth with a single. After Jeter and O’Neill followed suit with singles of their own, Williams smashed a home run to make it 12-0, Yankees.
At this point in the game, the White Sox raised the white flag, pulling Robin Ventura, Albert Belle, and Ray Durham; at the same time, Homer Bush and Luis Sojo replaced Knoblauch and Jeter up the middle. At this point, the only question that remained was whether or not Irabu would complete the shutout. While the White Sox did record three hits in the bottom of the ninth, a 6-4-3 double play kept them off the board, and the eventual AL Pitcher of the Month Irabu stranded two runners to secure his first of two career complete-game shutout.