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1998 Yankees Diary, June 11: Seven in the seventh stun New York

A late-game bullpen meltdown led to a loss against the hapless Expos.

Andy Pettitte #46...

The Yankees entered the final game of this series in La Belle Province having taken the first two tilts from Montreal. Andy Pettitte took the ball for game three, looking to lead New York to a series sweep in front of the Canadian crowd.

Unfortunately, after the Yankees jumped out to what seemed like it would be an insurmountable lead, the wheels completely fell off. Vladimir Guerrero delivered the coup de grace during a disaster seventh inning that the Yankees could not recover from, securing the end of their nine-game winning streak. C’est la vie. I guess you can’t literally win ‘em all

June 11: Yankees 5, Expos 7 (box score)

Record: 46-14, .767 (10.5 GA)

This one was a pitcher’s duel early. Future Yankee Carl Pavano (one of the all-time uh... memorable free agent signings for the Yanks) took the ball for Montreal, looking to salvage one game of this set north of the border.

And Pavano was holding up his end of the bargain early on. Through four innings the Yankees managed one baserunner. In the first, Luis Sojo singled to short. Unfortunately, Paul O’Neill followed that up by hitting into a hard luck double play. O’Neill drilled a laser to shortstop that Mark Grudzielanek caught and then promptly doubled off Sojo. Womp womp.

But all was not lost. Pettitte was equal to the task. Through four frames, he only allowed a single Expo to reach base. Vladimir Guerrero (more on him later) rapped a base hit in the first. Pettitte also had the K ball going. The southpaw racked up five whiffs through the first four.

Finally in the fifth, the Yankees got on the board. After Tino Martinez reached on an E3, Darryl Strawberry walked and Chad Curtis singled. With the sacks juiced, Scott Brosius singled to left field, scoring two. Next, with Joe Girardi at the dish, Curtis and Brosius pulled off the double steal. Girardi then singled to right, scoring both. 4-0 Yankees.

Pettitte came to the plate (it already feels like a lifetime ago that pitchers were hitting for themselves in NL parks) and laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt. Unfortunately, he came up a bit wobbly after running it out with what was later described as hip pain. When the inning was done though, the Yanks were up four.

The hip didn’t seem to be an immediate issue for Andy. After allowing a one-out single in the fifth, he immediately induced the double play ground ball to keep the Expos off the board. And in the sixth, Tino extended the lead for him, with a solo blast to right field, his 10th dinger of the campaign.

Pettitte, back out for the sixth, got himself in a bit of a jam with two runners on and one out. But another ground ball double play eliminated the threat and the Yanks were up five with nine outs to go. If only the game could have been called there. In the bottom of the seventh, Vlad led off with a double and then Rondell White doubled him home and advanced to third on an error as the Yankees kicked the ball around the infield. That was all for Pettitte, as Joe Torre called on Mike Stanton.

And here is where this game went off the rails. A walk and a single loaded the bases for Montreal. A sac fly scored a second run. Another walk reloaded the bases. Torre came to the mound and brought in Jeff Nelson. A Brad Fullmer double pulled Montreal within one. An intentional walk reloaded the bases. Nelson got the second out of the frame by whiffing Scott Livingstone.

But then Vlad put this one to bed. A bases-clearing double into right-center put three more runs on the board, giving Montreal a two-run lead. Guerrero was out at third trying to advance but the Expos had put up a seven-spot. New York never again threatened, failing to even bring the tying run to the plate over the final two innings. N’est pas ce que tu veux, as Joe Girardi might have said.

The rare loss was only the Yankees’ 14th on the campaign, and their first of June (again, on the 11th). As Buster Olney noted in the next day’s New York Times, New York had only to play .500 ball over the final 102 games of the season to finish with 97 wins.

Pettitte’s hip marked the immediate concern for the club though. Luckily, the discomfort in his hip quickly subsided, and Andy took the hill for the Yankees in his next scheduled start. The magical 1998 season continued.