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1998 Yankees Diary, June 10: Irabu shines both on the mound and at the plate

In an interleague matchup against the Expos, Hideki Irabu had quite the action-packed day.

Minnesota Twins vs New York Yankees Set Number: X55559

Now with 15 teams in each league, interleague play is something that has to happen all throughout the season. This year, the Yankees even kicked off the season against an NL team, hosting the Giants on Opening Day. Starting this season, it’s becoming even more expanded than it already has been, as every team will play all of the other 29 opponents for at least one series.

However back in 1998, interleague play was still a fairly new and novel thing. It had only begun the season before, and the games gave us matchups and moments that previously we didn’t get to see. On June 10, 1998, an interleague gave us a moment that hadn’t happed in a couple decades and a milestone reunion.

June 10: Yankees 6, Expos 2 (box score)

Record: 46-13, .780 (11 GA)

After taking the first game of the season in Montreal, the Yankees struck quickly to start game two. With a runner on after a Jose Vidro error, Tino Martinez took Expos starter Dustin Hermanson deep, giving the Yankees an early lead in the first inning.

On the mound for the Yankees that day was Hideki Irabu. He started his day with a scoreless inning, working around a Vladmir Guerrero single. With the game in an NL city, Irabu would then come to the plate in the second. Despite not featuring the sweetest swing you’ve ever seen, he punched through a single.

The hit was the first for a Yankees pitcher since Larry Gowell on October 4, 1972. That one had come in the final game before the American League instituted the designated hitter for the 1973 season.

Montreal got a run back in the third when Vidro hit an RBI double. However, the Yankees would answer in the top of the fourth, thanks in part to some more Irabu nonsense at the plate. Three of the first four Yankees batters in the fourth recorded singles, with the third — from Jorge Posada — bringing home a run. That ushered Irabu back to the plate. With runners on first and second, one out in the inning, and the pitcher at the plate, Irabu did what you would expect from him: square up for a bunt. He got it down, but in the weirdest way imaginable.

Not only did Irabu get the very high pitch in play, but Expos first baseman Brad Fulmer couldn’t handle Mark Grudzielanek’s throw, allowing a run to score.

After that, Irabu kept motoring along on the mound. He got some further insurance in the sixth on a Scott Brosius RBI single and more in the seventh on a Martinez sacrifice fly. Bernie Williams was the runner to cross the plate in the sixth, and his trip around the bases included a scary moment for the Yankees. He had double to start the inning, and during Brosius’ at-bat, he stole third. While he successfully did so, his slide into third was an awkward one.

The trainers came out and examined him, but Williams initially stayed in the game. However shortly after, his knee started to stiffen up, and he was later removed from the game. As it turned out, he had suffered a sprained knee, and the All-Star would be out until July 18th.

As for Irabu, he would come back out for the seventh, but allowed a home run to Rondell White to start the inning. At that point, Joe Torre went to the bullpen. Irabu finished the day with two runs allowed on five hits in six innings.

In the top of the eighth, a milestone moment occurred. Tim Raines led off the inning with a walk and shortly after that, he stole second. That was his 800th career stole base, a mark which only five players have reached in baseball history (and none since).

The milestone had also come in Montreal — a city that Raines had spent 13 years in as a member of the Expos, whose logo adorns his Hall of Fame plaque. The crowd gave him a nice hand as he tipped his cap to commemorate the achievement.

Following Irabu, the Yankees’ bullpen mostly picked up where he left off. Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton combined to throw the last three innings, sealing a 6-2 win.

To be honest, as a child of American League baseball, I’m not too upset that the DH is now league wide. That being said, it was always fun when a pitcher had a day at the plate like Irabu did on June 10, 1998.