Already through just one month of the 1998 season, one began to feel that something special was brewing with this edition of the Yankees. Slow start aside, New York was on the cusp of its 20th win before the midway point of the first week in May. The offense was scoring at a near historic rate, covering up some of the weak spots that existed on the pitching staff. However, on this day both units brought their A-games, completing a sweep of the Royals in dominant fashion.
May 3: Yankees 10, Royals 1 (box score)
Record: 20-6, .769 (up 1.5)
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium as the Yankees strolled out onto the field preparing to cap off a sweep of their hosts. The team finally grabbed sole possession of first place in the division on the final day of April, a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the season. They had just put the Royals to the sword for 12 runs the previous night, and with a 36 year old Tim Belcher on the mound, a repeat offensive performance felt likely.
From the very first pitch, the Royals faced an uphill battle that would prove to be a Sisyphean task. Homer Bush led off with a single, stole second, and advanced to third on a groundout, allowing him to score the first run of the contest on a Paul O’Neill weak grounder that Jeff King booted at first. New York would go on to load the bases thanks to a single from Tino Martinez and walk from Bernie Williams, but Belcher retired Darryl Strawberry and Tim Raines to leave them juiced.
Belcher managed to settle down for the next two innings, but his Houdini act in the first and effectiveness in the following two simply delayed the inevitable. With two outs in the fourth, Jorge Posada crushed a solo shot down the right field line to double the Yankees lead.
Across the diamond, Ramiro Mendoza was well on his way toward easily the best start of his campaign thus far. He made quick work of the Kansas City lineup the first time through, allowing just two walks across the first three innings requiring just 43 pitches to do so. He ran into his only spot of bother in the fourth, with Hal Morris leading off with a double, advancing to third on a wild pitch, and scoring on a King sac fly. That was all the opposing offense would manage in the contest, with Mendoza finishing his day after seven innings, allowing the run on three hits and four walks.
The Yankees reclaimed their two-run advantage in the fifth on an O’Neill solo shot to center before really pouring it on in the sixth. Strawberry walked to leadoff the frame, advancing to second and third on consecutive groundouts, allowing Brosius to drive him home on a groundball that shortstop Felix Martinez couldn’t handle.
This is where Belcher’s afternoon really fell apart. Bush reached on a bunt single followed by a Derek Jeter hit-by-pitch to load the bags. From there, Belcher issued back-to-back free passes to O’Neill and Martinez to plate New York’s fifth and sixth runs.
That spelled the end of Belcher’s outing, but not of the Royals’ troubles. In fact, they may have been better off sticking with Belcher after watching his replacement Jose Rosado instantaneously melt down. Chad Curtis led off with a walk followed by a Raines single to put runners on the corners with no outs. Posada singled through the left side to plate Curtis, Brosius blooped a single to center to plate Raines, and Jeter singled up the middle to drive home Posada and Brosius.
Neither team would score from the bottom of the seventh on as the Yankees cruised to a 10-1 victory and away sweep of the Royals. It was the team’s fifth win in a row and already the fifth time to score double-digit runs. Between the final two games in Kansas City and the first two games of the following series against the Rangers, the Yankees would score 44 runs in a four-game period in an offensive outburst that would come to characterize the 1998 squad, the likes of which we are unlikely to see again.