It was business as usual for the 1998 Yankees across the first half of June. They opened the month stacking wins on top of wins on top of wins, losing just their first game since the calendar flipped on June 11th. After two days without a game, they got back to their winning ways 4-2 victory over Cleveland, and with the team headed to Camden Yards to face the middling Baltimore Orioles, it looked like the Yankees were about to start yet another winning streak.
But then, the impossible happened. For the first time since the first week of the season, the 1998 Yankees did not win back-to-back games.
June 15: Yankees 4, Orioles 7 (box score)
Record: 47-15, .758 (10.0 game lead)
Right from the jump, it was clear that Yankees starter David Wells did not have his best stuff. The Orioles got on the board first when Joe Carter blasted a solo shot in the bottom of the first. While Wells set the side down in order in the second, Baltimore rallied in the third. Lenny Webster led off the inning with a single over the first baseman’s head. Mike Bordick bunted him over to second for the first out of the inning, and after Roberto Alomar flew out to right, it looked like Wells might be able to strand the leadoff batter. A wild pitch, however, allowed Webster to move to third, and a Joe Carter infield single extended the O’s lead to 2-0. Harold Baines and Rafael Palmiero followed that up with a single and a double, respectively, and just like that, the Yankees found themselves in a 3-0 hole.
This being the 1998 Yankees, however, a three-run deficit proved to be child’s play. After forcing Baltimore starter Scott Erickson to grind through the first three innings but with nothing to show for it, the offense broke through in the fourth. Darryl Strawberry got things going with a one-out single, Jorge Posada kept the line moving with a single of his own, and Ricky Ledee hit his first and only home run of his rookie campaign. Just like that, the score was tied.
Both Wells and Erickson kept the score there for the bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth, but once again, each lineup struck. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, a Joe Carter and a Harold Baines single gave the O’s the lead back; in the next half-inning, Jorge Posada blasted a one-out home run to tie it back up at four apiece.
Unfortunately, Wells would hand the lead right back. B.J. Surhoff led off the bottom of the sixth by grounding a single up the middle, advancing to second on a Cal Ripken Jr. swinging bunt. Lenny Webster singled to put runners on first and third with one out, and a Mike Bordick sacrifice fly gave Baltimore the lead once more.
There would be no third comeback, however. Scott Erickson set down the Yankees in order in the top of the seventh. In the bottom of the frame, Mike Stanton surrendered a solo shot to Rafael Palmiero, then a hit batsman, a walk, and a Cal Ripken Jr. single off the bat of Ramiro Mendoza plated another run and brought the Baltimore lead to 7-4.
And that’s where it would stay. Baltimore called upon 41-year-old reliever Jesse Orosco — who, with 1252 appearances, has pitched in the most games in baseball history — for a six-out save. He faced the minimum, setting down the Yankees in order both times to hand the Yankees just their 15th loss of the season.