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1998 Yankees Diary, May 31: Bombers drop barnburner against Boston

Pettitte and co. were treated to the third inning from hell.

New York Yankees v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

On a rare day when Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez didn’t have it, the Yankees couldn’t capitalize. Andy Pettitte picked an unfortunate day to toss by far his worst start of the season, lasting only 2.2 innings while giving up eight runs on six hits. The Yankees offense attempted to rally, but it always felt like a lost cause after the 11-run third inning from the visiting rivals. Thus, the Bombers would have to settle for a series split having dropped two in a row for just the third time through the first two months of the season. Perhaps this served as extra motivation for the club, because they would go on to rattle off nine straight victories following this defeat.

May 31: Yankees 7, Red Sox 13 (box score)

Record: 37-13, .740 (up 7.5)

A matchup between the aces of each staff filled that billing through the first two frames, with Pettitte tallying three strikeouts and Martinez four without surrendering a run. But then the third inning struck and that’s where it all unraveled for the Yankees.

After striking out Darren Bragg to lead off the frame, Pettitte issued a single to Jason Varitek, walk to Darren Lewis, and single to John Valentin to load the bases for Nomar Garciaparra. The perennial thorn in the Yankees’ side lined a double down the left-field line to plate Varitek and Lewis, but that was only the start of the misery for the home team.

Valentin would score on a fielder’s choice error from Mo Vaughn, after which Jim Leyritz grounded into a forceout that plated Garciaparra to make it 4-0 Boston. All Pettitte needed was one more out facing the bottom of the Red Sox order, but he couldn’t manage it, yielding three straight singles to Troy O’Leary, Lou Merloni, and Bragg to score another pair of runs and prompt Joe Torre to retrieve him from the mound.

In came Darren Holmes, who somehow was even less effective than the pitcher he replaced. He served up a double to Varitek, the first batter he faced, to score Merloni and Bragg, followed by back-to-back walks of Lewis and Valentin to load the bases for the second time in the frame. Garciaparra singled to plate Varitek and Vaughn doubled to plate Lewis and Valentin before Leyritz mercifully popped out, but not before the Red Sox had stunned the Yankee Stadium crowd into silence with an 11-run outburst.

The Yankees were playing the most unimaginable game of catchup from that point, getting on the board in the fourth on singles from Bernie Williams, Chad Curtis, and finally Scott Brosius to plate Williams. They made things a bit more respectable in the sixth as Darryl Strawberry walked and Curtis singled, setting up a Joe Girardi three-run home run that knocked Martinez from the game.

An inning later, things got interesting. Facing reliever John Wasdin, Derek Jeter led off with a single before stealing second and eventually scoring on a Paul O’Neill single. In came Ron Mahay, who walked Tino Martinez and gave up a single to Williams to load the bases before himself being yanked for Dennis Eckersley. Pitching in his final season, the future Hall of Famer was a shadow of his former self, issuing a free pass to Tim Raines to walk in a run followed by a Curtis single that scored Martinez. Though he would escape the jam with a double play, all of a sudden the Yankees had scored seven unanswered to make a game of this one again.

That newfound momentum was halted dead in its tracks in the ninth. In the second and final inning he would pitch in the big leagues that season, Todd Erdos opened the inning with a single to Merloni and double to Bragg, allowing Lewis to provide the killer blow — a two-run double to widen the deficit from four runs to six. Any chance at a comeback was surely scuppered, and indeed the Yankees went quietly in the bottom of the ninth, losing by a score of 13-7.