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1998 Yankees Diary, June 17: Strawberry moonshot helps avoid sweep in Baltimore

A titanic homer from Darryl Strawberry and a good start from Andy Pettitte helped the 1998 Yankees avoid a rare sweep.

Darryl Strawberry

Due to the sheer amount of games the 1998 Yankees won, it’s not often that they had to get a W to stave off a series sweep. Yet, that’s what they were up against in the third game of their set against the Orioles on June 17th, after they dropped the first two.

The 1998 Yankees were only swept once over the course of the season, and that came in a mini two-game set. With that in mind, you might be able to guess what happened in this one.

June 17: Yankees 5, Orioles 3 (box score)

Record: 48-16, .750 (9.0 GA)

The pitching matchup for the day was a battle between Yankees aces of the present and future, as Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina took the hill. Moose was still a few seasons away from venturing up north to sign with the Bombers and on this day, his future team got him.

In the first inning, Mussina got two outs but also issued a walk to Luis Sojo and a single to Paul O’Neill. That left two on and two out for Darryl Strawberry. The outfielder was reportedly not thrilled at having been left out of the lineup by Joe Torre the previous night, so in this game he let his bat do the talking. On a 2-1 Mussina offering, Strawberry did this:

The mammoth 465 foot shot was the longest in the history of Camden Yards at the time. (It has since been surpassed.) It also gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead before the defense even took the field.

After a couple scoreless frames from Pettitte to start the game, his catcher then gave him even more breathing room. In the top of the fourth, Joe Girardi added a solo homer to make it 4-0. Baltimore did get on the board in the bottom half of that inning as Rafael Palmeiro hit a solo shot of his own.

In the top of the sixth, the Yankees pushed another run across against Mussina when Chuck Knoblauch’s groundout scored Scott Brosius from third. For the day, Mussina would allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks in six innings.

However, again the Orioles answered with a run off Pettitte. Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series hero Joe Carter — playing with Baltimore in what would be his final MLB season — took Pettitte deep for another solo shot in the bottom of the sixth.

Pettitte would go on to throw a clean seventh and then again came back out for the eighth. His day would finally come to an end there when he allowed a one-out single to Carter. In his 7.1 innings, Pettitte allowed two runs on six hits and two walks. Joe Torre then turned to Mariano Rivera for a potential five-out save. Things started well enough for Mo as he got two infield pop ups to end the eighth.

The Yankees’ offense couldn’t add anything against former Yankee Alan Mills in the top of the ninth, meaning Rivera had a three-run cushion for the bottom half. Straight away, things got a bit scary when Roberto Alomar led off the inning with a double. A B.J. Surhoff grounder moved him over to third, from where he scored on a Cal Ripken Jr. sacrifice fly. While that run did score, you may notice that Mo didn’t allow any further runners in the process. That allowed him to get Harold Baines to ground out to end the game without much stress.

Usually, even the best teams get swept once or twice a season. The 1998 Yankees only had it happened to them once, and that’s in part because when they were even threatened, they were able to come out and punch the other team in the mouth in the first inning.