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1998 Yankees Diary, June 1: Launching a new streak

Mo blows the save, but the Yanks walk it off in extras against the White Sox.

Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees

The 1998 Yankees ended the month of May on a bit of low note. They lost two straight games against the Boston Red Sox to split a four-game set, including a 13-7 shellacking on the 31st. Not only was this just the third time all season they had lost two straight games, they also dropped three of their last five. Were the first-place Yankees starting to slip?

Ha! No. There’s an argument to be made that the 1998 Yankees were the best team of all time, and how do historically great teams respond to adversity? They win, and win, and win some more. The Yankees would begin the month of June with a nine-game winning streak, already their third streak of eight games or more.

June 1: Yankees 5, White Sox 4 (box score)

Record: 38-13, .745 (7.5 game lead)

Deja vu all over again! The Yankees and White Sox opened the month by repeating a matchup from the previous week, one that had resulted in a 12-9 Chicago victory. Ramiro Mendoza got the ball for the Yankees. Just a week after allowing the Chicago lineup to chase him from the game after the third inning, Mendoza needed to give the Yankees some length, as their bullpen was a bit battered on account of Pettitte’s 2.2-inning disaster the previous day. On the other side, Scott Eyre, still a starter in just his second big league season, aimed to bounce back from a five-inning outing in which he walked six batters and surrendered six runs.

Both starters bounced back after their rough outings, with Mendoza pitching into the seventh and Eyre making it into the eighth. The Yankees were the first to get on the board, as Jorge Posada took Eyre deep for a solo shot with one out in the bottom of the second. The White Sox responded quickly, however, with Mike Caruso singling in Mike Cameron, who led off the top of the third with a double, to tie the game at one. Chad Curtis then led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo shot of his own, while Tino Martinez added a two-run shot in the fifth to extend the Yankees’ lead to 4-1.

Albert Belle cut it to two with a solo homer in the top of the sixth, but that’s all the damage Chicago would do against the Yankee starter. When Mendoza left the game with one out in the seventh, the path to victory was simple and well-trodden: get the ball to Mariano Rivera. That plan worked 652 times across a 19-year period.

June 1, 1998, however, does not count among those times. Rivera entered the game with two runners on, nobody out, and the middle of the order due up in the top of the eighth. In classic Mo fashion, he struck out Frank Thomas and got Albert Belle to fly out to left field, and it looked like he would emerge unscathed. But then future teammate Robin Ventura lined a two-run double to right field, and just like that, the score was tied, and the great Mariano Rivera — although he had not yet become the GOAT — had blown the save, his third of the year.

Although the Yankees offense threatened in the bottom of the ninth — Chuck Knoblauch reached third on an error with just one out in the inning — neither team proved able to score in either the eighth or the ninth, sending the game into extras. Jeff Nelson, on in relief, put down the side in order in the top of the inning, giving the lineup the opportunity to send the Yankee Stadium fans home happy in the 10th.

Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez lined out and struck out to open the frame, but Tim Raines worked a walk to extend the inning. Chad Curtis took advantage of that and laced a double down the left field line to walk it off. Although Raines was 38 years old at this point, the eventual Hall of Famer channeled the speed that allowed him to steal 808 bags in his career, scoring from first with an assist from Chicago catcher Chad Kreuter when the throw home bounced between his legs.