The Yankees entered this one having taken two of the first three from Atlanta, the foe they’d vanquished in the Fall Classic less that two years earlier. Now, in the final game of a four-game, home-and-home set, they had the opportunity to make a definitive statement. Taking three of four in Atlanta sounds much more impressive than leaving town with a split.
New York sent David Wells to the mound to try and get he job done. And while he didn’t throw another perfect game, he did toss a complete game shutout. It’s really hard to lose when you don’t give up any runs.
June 25: Yankees 6, Braves 0 (box score)
Record: 53-19, .736 (10 GA)
This was a pitcher’s duel early. Boomer allowed some hits in the early innings, most notably a two-out triple to Atlanta superstar and future Yankee Andruw Jones. But each time, Wells managed to escape without allowing a man to cross home plate.
Meanwhile, through four innings, Wells was also the only source of offense for New York. He came to the dish with two out in the third inning, and in a masterful piece of hitting, went to the opposite field for single, one of 23 base hits Boomer managed in the big leagues. A prolific slugger he was not, but on this night he got the Yankees into the hit column.
In the bottom of the fifth, some beautiful defense helped the Yankee cause. With a runner on first and one out, Atlanta starter Denny Neagle tried to lay down the sacrifice. Wells fielded the bunt cleanly, pivoted, and threw to second base to get the lead runner. With the runner bearing down on him Derek Jeter hung in there, fired a strike to first, and completed the twin killing to send the contest to the sixth.
And in the sixth, business picked up. Neagle had been very stingy to that point in the contest, holding New York to the aforementioned single by Wells. In the fifth though, he had trouble with his command, walking three Yankees (albeit one intentionally). His struggle to find the strike zone reared its head again in the sixth and this time New York pounced.
Neagle issued a free pass to Jeter leading off the innings. Likewise to Chuck Knoblauch, putting runners on first and second with no one out. Paul O’Neill came to the dish and hammered a ball into right center field. When the play was over, the Yankees had a 2-0 lead, Paulie had a triple, and his awkward looking flop slide into third base was captured for eternity thanks to SportsCenter.
Tim Raines drove O’Neill in two batters later, extending the lead to three and then Chad Curtis put the game to rest with a two-run dinger. Five runs in the frame on three hits and Neagle was gone from this game.
Atlanta managed to put runners on first and third in the bottom of the sixth but Wells escaped the threat and that was the last time the Braves really threatened. The Yankees tacked on a run in the eighth, but this one was over after the sixth. When it was all said and done, Wells’ final line looked pretty good. 9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K. On the night, New York only managed four hits, but they made them count.
Atlanta was a really good team. Even after losing three of four to New York, they boasted a .646 winning percentage and a +115 run differential. So it speaks to the caliber of this ‘98 Yankee squad that it came into Turner Field and bullied the Braves. You love to see it.