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1998 Yankees Diary, June 14: Coney bites back

Ricky Ledee made his MLB debut, but this day was all about David Cone, a dog bite, and utter domination.

American League Division Series - New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Three

Coming off a pair of rained-out games against Cleveland, the Yankees had just enough time to activate David Cone, who missed his previous start after getting bitten on his pitching hand by his mother’s Jack Russell Terrier, Veronica. That skipped turn through the rotation helped launch Orlando Hernandez’s career, as a rookie El Duque seized his opportunity and never looked back, bouncing Ramiro Mendoza from the rotation in the process.

Cone’s wasn’t the only injury influencing the Yankees’ decision making in the early days of June. Derek Jeter was tending to a strained abdominal muscle while Bernie Williams had just landed on the DL with a sprained knee that would ultimately cost him a month. However, the lineup was still stacked with producers who would rattle off far more wins than losses in the absences of their two most important bats.

June 7: Yankees 4, Cleveland 2 (box score)

Record: 47-14, .770 (up 10.0)

Cone’s last start before the dog bite incident was a complete game, 14-strikeout gem, and he picked up right where he left off. He did encounter a bit of traffic in the first, giving up a single to Kenny Lofton and walking Jim Thome, but struck out Omar Vizquel and Travis Fryman swinging to strand the pair. He’d tally another pair of strikeouts to end the second, this time punching out Thome and Manny Ramirez looking.

Replacing Williams in the outfield was debutant Ricky Ledee, who in his first big league plate appearance singled to right. The rookie from Puerto Rico would go 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base. New York opened the scoring in the third when Chuck Knoblauch drew a leadoff walk, went first-to-third on a Paul O’Neill single, and came around to score on a Tino Martinez sac fly.

Cone’s domination of the Cleveland lineup continued, retiring the side in order in the fourth before adding another pair of strikeouts to his collection in the fifth. This paved the way for his offense to extend the lead in the bottom-half. Scott Brosius drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on an O’Neill double. Both would score on a Martinez single under the diving glove of David Bell, giving the Yankees first baseman three RBI on the night.

At this point, Cone was on cruise control, bringing his strikeout tally into the double-digits with one in the sixth and two in the seventh — the second straight start in which he achieved the feat. The Yankees would score their fourth and final run of the contest in the seventh, Scott Brosius leading off with a double and then scoring on a Tim Raines single.

The only blemish on Cone’s scorecard came in the eighth as he gave up a leadoff home run to Lofton — part of a 3-for-3 night for the Cleveland centerfielder. However, strikeouts of Vizquel and Ramirez followed by a Thome groundout mean Cone could finish his outing on a high note, having held Cleveland to a run on four hits and two walks against 12 strikeouts, needing 123 pitches to get the job done.

Joe Torre couldn’t have scripted the pitching gameplan any better — eight sterling innings from his starter before handing it off to Mariano Rivera for the ninth. Even Mo was human every once in a while, serving up a single to David Justice and a double to Sandy Alomar before a Mark Whiten groundball scored the former, however he would get Matt Luke to roll over to second to seal the victory, 4-2.