There’s something fun about looking up old games and seeing contributions from guys who weren’t stars — or banes-of-existence — yet, and knowing what was to come. When it comes to David Ortiz, maybe “fun” isn’t the way to describe it, but 25 years ago the big lefty made his first impact in a career-defining rivalry with the Yankees, even if we didn’t know it at the time.
May 9: Yankees 1, Twins 8 (box score)
Record: 23-7, .767 (2.0 game lead)
Five years before joining the Red Sox, Papi was already helping Boston in the AL East standings. After facing the Yankees for the first time in Friday, May 8th’s showdown, Ortiz went 3-for-4 and scored a pair of runs, pushing his OPS to .909 on the year.
Andy Pettitte just didn’t have it in this one, going 5.2 innings and allowing seven runs. Yes, for the ‘98 Yankees, 5.2 innings is a short outing. He was out of sorts from the word go, hitting the first batter he faced in the bottom of the first before walking Denny Hocking in the two-hole. Aging Hall of Famer Paul Molitor bunted for a hit, and Pettitte was only spared allowing a run when baserunner Ron Coomer was hit by a ball in play. He was lucky in the first, but that luck wouldn’t last.
The Twins plated three runs in the second, with three hits, a walk, and sac fly. Pettitte wouldn’t even strike a batter out until the third, although he did notch two in that inning, one of them the aforementioned Ortiz. Those would be the only K’s Andy recorded all day, as he ended up with 96 pitches that, for the most part, the Twins were keyed in on. He did work three clean innings after Minnesota broke through, but the last batter he faced, Matt Lawton, cracked a grand slam to close the book on his outing.
Y’know how Ken Singleton used to say “some guys just throw your speed?” Andy Pettitte, in 1998, just threw the Twins’ speed, giving up 19 runs in 20.2 IP across three starts. ‘98 was not his best season, although he did step it up in the playoffs, and his performance against the Twins definitely contributed to that step back from his stellar 1997 campaign.
Offensively the Yankees were completely stifled by Mike Morgan, the 38-year-old right-hander in his 19th big-league season. He nearly threw a complete game shutout, as Scott Brosius only got New York on the board with two out in the ninth inning, with an RBI single.
Every time you see a loss on a recap of the 1998 Yankees, it raises eyebrows. This one would be the fifth-worst loss, by margin, of the entire season. Nobody in road greys had a good day at the Metrodome, but the ‘98 club was great partially for their ability to bounce back, and that’s exactly what they would do in the rubber game on May 10th.