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1998 Yankees Diary, May 5: Bats stay hot against first-place Rangers

The Yankees can’t seem to lose, as they start a series in Texas with a smooth victory.

MLB: New York Yankees at Atlanta Braves VJ Lovero-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like a good sign that each time I begin writing my entry for this series lately, the Yankees’ loss column seems to go mostly unchanged. Headed into the fifth day of the fifth month, the Yanks had rattled off five straight wins, and were making a habit of these win streaks. On a warm night in Texas, New York sent out David Cone, who had been turning around a rough start to the year, to face John Burkett and the Rangers. After a blowout win in their last game, the Yankee bats stayed hot and coasted to a victory in Arlington.

May 5: Yankees 7, Rangers 2 (Box Score)

Record: 21-6, .778 (Up 1.5)

David Cone had been recovering from what’d been a miserable start to his 1998 campaign. He had given up 16 earned runs in his first two outings on the year, but headed into this day’s matchup in Texas he had run off three straight since then with at least 5.2 innings and two or less earned runs.

He would be facing a tough Rangers lineup, but luckily the Yankee bats had Coney’s back before he even stepped on the mound. In the top of the first, Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter set the table with a double and single respectively, which brought up big-swinging Paul O’Neill. He promptly lined Burkett’s pitch down the right field line and into the seats, to give the Yanks a 3-0 lead before recording an out.

In their opening turn, Texas was also able to get a few runners on base, but were able to just scratch one run across as Mark McLemore scored from third base on a wild pitch from Cone. After this, both right-handers were able to settle into their groove a bit, as they each worked scoreless and mostly spotless frames into the fifth inning. The fifth, however, was far from spotless.

After a walk and a Scott Brosius single, Joe Girardi lined a single to left to score a run, and Jeter followed him with another two batters later. With the Yanks up 5-1, a wild pitch advanced Girardi and Jeter, and a passed ball a batter later added another tally for the Yanks, a sequence that made Ivan Rodriguez a bit displeased. The messy inning had knocked Burkett out of the game, and gave him a line of five earned runs over just 4.1 innings. Texas chipped away in their at-bat however, on the back of a McLemore RBI single. This would all but finish Cone’s day, his start was done after five complete innings as he gave up a pair of runs and struck out four.

The Rangers looked to continue chiseling away at the deficit in the sixth, and appeared to be doing just that in Juan Gonzalez’s at-bat. The slugging right-hander launched a ball to left-center that everyone in the stadium seemed to think was out, except of course, for Bernie Williams. He timed the jump perfectly and took a round-tripper away from Gonzalez.

A bullpen combination of Darren Holmes and Jeff Nelson kept things relatively sweat-free for the Yankees. The two righties pitched two scoreless frames each, and allowed just a single hit between both of them. While the pitching staff did its job, the lineup added an insurance run in the ninth, as O’Neill notched his fourth RBI of the night on an infield single.

As they had become quite accustomed to lately, the Yankees coasted to a relatively smooth win on this day in ‘98. The bats came out quickly and in full force, while David Cone and the bullpen kept things in check on the other side. This was their sixth win in as many games, and it helped them maintain their all-important 1.5 game lead in the tight AL East.