You can make an argument that the three games in Atlanta in the 1996 World Series were the most important of that dynastic era. The Yankees went there down 2-0 in the series after dropping the first two in New York to the Braves. They responded by winning all three games in Atlanta, turning the tide in the series and setting up a clinching Game 6 win in the Bronx. Who knows what happens both in that series and in the dynasty if they drop one of those three?
The Yankees made their first return to Atlanta since that series in 1998, and some things had changed. For one, the Braves had moved out of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and into Turner Field after its post-1996 Olympics reconfiguration.
One thing that was similar to two years prior was that the Yankees went there and picked up some wins, one coming courtesy of a good David Cone outing.
Record: 52-19, .732 (10 GA)
The third game of the 1996 rematch saw a battle between a veteran of two years prior and a newcomer. Cone had played a big role in ‘96, putting in a key performance in Game 3, helping the Yankees to a win that kickstarted the series comeback. As for Atlanta, they sent a young Kevin Millwood to the mound. Millwood had made his MLB debut the year prior, and had shown some flashes of brilliance, but had gotten off to a rocky start in 1998.
After Millwood got out of a bit of a jam in the first, his offense then gave him the perfect start. Leading off the game for Atlanta was Ozzie Guillen, who took the fourth pitch Cone threw over the wall in right field, giving the Braves a very quick lead. They added to that in the second when Andruw Jones drove home future Yankee Curtis Pride with an RBI double.
Paul O’Neill got one of those runs back with a solo homer in the fourth, but the Yankees’ offense really came alive in the fourth. Chad Curtis and Scott Brosius started the inning with a walk and a single respectively. Following that was Joe Giradi, who hit a double over Jones’ head, scoring a run to tie things up.
That brought the #9 spot up in the lineup, and with the game in a National League park, that spot belonged to Cone. With runners on second and third, the bunt was taken out of play as, unless it was perfect, it would probably just lead to an out at home. That left Cone to swing away. He did a fairly acceptable thing for a pitcher in that spot, and grounded one to first. Ryan Klesko quickly tried to fire home to get the out, but it wasn’t going to be in time. So, catcher Javy López didn’t even an attempt a tag, and tried to immediately throw back to first to try and get Cone. However, his throw went past a covering Keith Lockhart, allowing another run to score. Derek Jeter later plated Cone with a single, completing a four-run inning for the Yankees. That also knocked Millwood out of the game after just 3.2 innings. Even when the Yankees weren’t scoring against him, they did an impressive job of driving up the young pitcher’s pitch count. He was at 90 pitches after just 3.1 innings, with eight different plate appearances going at least six pitches.
The Braves got one more run off Cone before his day ended, but the Yankees’ starter mostly settled down after the first two innings. In total, Cone gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits while striking out seven across seven innings. He was also the opposite of Millwood in pitch count efficiency, as he threw 94 pitches in his seven frames.
The Yankees’ offense was far from done, though. They picked up another three runs on three hits and an error in the seventh. Tino Martinez got them into double digits when he drove home two runs with an eighth inning double.
After Cone exited, the Yankees turned to Mike Stanton for the eighth. After two walks and four batters later, López took him deep, getting the Braves somewhat within touching distance. Jeff Nelson eventually came in and got the last out of the inning.
The offense couldn’t add to the lead, and Joe Torre sent Nelson back out for the ninth. That didn’t start ideally as Nelson allowed a single to Jones and walked a pinch-hitting Eddie Pérez. With there now being some pretty major jeopardy, Torre didn’t take any chance and brought in Mariano Rivera. In a classic Mo move, it took him just four pitches to end the game. He induced a Guillen double play and then got Lockhart to ground out, preventing any runs from scoring and sealing a win.