In a recent World Series rematch, the Yankees and Braves headed into the second game of their June series, with the Bombers taking the first. New York sent out Orlando Hernandez to make his fourth career start, while the Braves sent out Tom Glavine, who was in the midst of one of the best years of his decorated career. In a matchup between the best team in the American League and the best in the National league, there was no way this series would remain one-sided.
June 23: Yankees 2, Braves 7 (Box Score)
Record: 51-19, .729 (Up 9.0)
After three excellent starts to begin a major league career, Hernandez was set to face what was probably his most difficult opponent yet. The Braves lineup was filled with impressive names, and while Glavine faced a similar situation against the Yankees, his veteran status would ultimately win out over the sensational rookie.
After El Duque worked a clean first inning, the Yankee lineup got right to work backing him up. Batting second in the order, Derek Jeter came up with one out, and did what Derek Jeter often did, launching a homer into the right field seats to give New York a quick 1-0 lead. Sadly, the Bombers had trouble making more noise afterwards, and Atlanta didn’t let that lead last for more than a few minutes.
In the Braves’ half of the second, after a pair of singles from Ryan Klesko and Javy Lopez, Michael Tucker would follow with the same to knot the score back up at one. The Yankee bats went down in order in the second and the third, while the Braves continued to work away.
In the third, Ozzie Guillen scored via an RBI groundout to give the Braves a 2-1 lead, and they began to pour it on in the fourth. After a walk, single, and an error loaded the bases, Hernandez was faced with perhaps his toughest spot yet in the majors. He began things by walking Guillen, putting Atlanta up 3-1. He followed it with another run-scoring walk to Curtis Pride on what could be called a debatable call on a 3-2 count. After a strikeout for the second out of the inning, Chipper Jones lined a single up the middle to score two more runs. It put the Braves up 6-1 and was the final act of Hernandez’s evening.
He finished with a line of three earned runs over 3.2, on six hits and four walks. There were some unlucky breaks, but it was definitely the first blip on the excellent start to his career.
The bottom of the fourth for the Yankees, and the fifth for both teams, went quietly. But, in the sixth, the Atlanta lineup deemed it necessary to add on to their lead. After Guillen doubled to lead things off, and was advanced to third, Keith Lockhart sent a fly ball deep enough to center to score the run. It put Atlanta up 7-1, and this one began to feel out of reach for the Yanks.
In their half of the seventh, they did show (brief) signs of life, as Paul O’Neill led things off by launching a homer down the right field line to bring the score to 7-2. It was something, but the Yankees would need five more of those pesky runs (which they couldn’t manage against the stingy Atlanta staff).
Glavine would work through the rest of the seventh, as well as the eighth, untouched. His night would finish there, as he gave up just those two runs over eight innings, with seven hits and a pair of walks. It wasn’t spotless, but eight frames of two-run ball is something you’d take every time against these Yankees.
In the ninth, Kerry Ligtenberg came out of the Braves ‘pen to finish things off, and that he did. Though they were able to get a runner on, a pop out and a pair of K’s spelled the end of the night for the Yankees.
It was the first shaky outing for New York’s shining rookie, and the Braves veteran kept their lineup in check all night. For almost a week now, the Yankees had been alternating wins and losses, something that was foreign to them in 1998. But, they were still maintaining a healthy lead in the East, and when this is a rough stretch, things are probably going alright in the big picture.