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1998 Yankees Diary, May 27: Pitching falls apart in loss to White Sox

This game wasn’t the best from the 1998 Yankees’ pitching staff.

World Series - New York Yankees v San Diego Padres - Game Four

The 1998 Yankees were an all-time great time. There’s a reason we’re doing a daily series about them 25 years later. They won an obscene amount of baseball games.

However, even in a historically great season, the Yankees still lost 48 regular season games. Not every game was a banger. On this day in 1998, the Yankees lost a game that was decidedly not a banger.

May 27: Yankees 9, White Sox 12 (box score)

Record: 35-11, .761 (7.5 GA)

Wrapping up their series in Chicago, the Yankees sent swingman Ramiro Mendoza to the mound for a start. While he managed to work around two first-inning singles, the opening frame would be a sign of what was ahead from Yankees’ pitching.

To start the second inning, future Yankee Robin Ventura singled and then was doubled home by Greg Norton. After a groundout moved up Norton, Mendoza uncorked a wild pitch that scored another run.

However, the Yankees’ offense was still the Yankees’ offense, and they answered back in the third. While White Sox starter Scott Eyre got two quick outs to start the fame, walks from Dale Sveum and Derek Jeter, and an error on a Chuck Knoblauch grounder, loaded the bases. Two runs then scored when Chicago shortstop Mike Caruso made an error on a Paul O’Neill pop up. After that, Bernie Williams kicked off what would be a big day at the plate for him, hitting a three-run homer to give the Yankees the lead.

Mendoza’s struggles would continue in the third, though. The White Sox opened the inning with four straight hits, scoring two runs. A Norton sacrifice fly added another, and just like that the game was tied. Joe Torre would go to the bullpen after that, ending Mendoza’s day with five runs allowed on nine hits in just three innings. Willie Banks replace him, but he promptly allowed a three-run homer to Albert Belle in the fourth, putting the Yankees back in a hole.

In the fifth, the Yankees got one of those runs back. A Knoblauch hit and yet another White Sox error allowed for the Yankee second baseman to get in position to score on Williams’ second hit of the day — a single. Williams would be in the middle of the action again in the sixth, when the seesaw went back in the Yankees’ favor.

With two outs in the inning, the Yankees had two on when O’Neill stepped to the plate. He doubled to left, scoring a run and setting the Yankees up with two runners in scoring position. It also brought Bernie back to the plate. He drilled a pitch to deep center field that sent Chicago center fielder Mike Cameron back and back. The ball eventually turned Cameron around and it bounced off the wall. Two runs scored and Williams raced all the way to third for a triple. Just like that, the Yankees led again.

At that point, Torre turned to Jeff Nelson for the seventh. While he had been involved in the Orioles brawl the week prior, the suspensions for the incident had been staggered, and this was set to be Nelson’s last game before it began the next day. His appearance didn’t start ideally, as he allowed a triple to Ray Durham when Williams couldn’t corral a deep fly ball and went crashing into the outfield wall. Caruso immediately singled him home and the game was tied again.

Nelson came back out for the seventh, but things really got away from him there. While he got one out to start the inning, Cameron reached on a triple, after which Nelson lost the zone. He walked the next batter before a Jorge Posada passed ball led to a run that put the White Sox in front. A double by Durham and a run-scoring wild pitch from Nelson led to him getting pulled mid-inning and Chicago adding to their lead. In the 1.2 innings Nelson pitched, he allowed four runs on four hits, three walks, a wild pitch, and a passed ball. His outing was so iffy that after the game, Torre theorized that the suspension “might be coming at a good time for him.”

For as good as the Yankees’ offense had been all day, those runs ended up being a bridge too far. White Sox pitching retired the last six Yankees in order to seal a 12-9 win. Bernie Williams made the last out of the eighth and finished a double short of the cycle. For the day, he went 3-for-5 with five RBI.

May 27th was definitely a day to forget for the 1998 Yankees, but luckily there weren’t too many like those.