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1998 Yankees Diary, June 9: Bernie, Brosius, and a pitching gem

Double-digit runs and a complete game from your starter typically does the trick.

Orlando Hernandez

In the midst of a seven-game win streak, including the last five against Florida’s two clubs, the Yankees traveled north of the border to take on the now-defunct Expos in Montreal. David Cone had pitched a masterpiece in their previous game, and it was now Orlando Hernandez’s turn to follow up his impressive debut the week prior. By the time this one was over, the Yankee bats were scorching hot, and El Duque had truly arrived.

June 9: Yankees 11, Expos 1 (Box Score)

Record: 45-13, .776 (Up 11.0)

As mentioned, Hernandez made his big league debut less than a week prior to this matchup, at home against the Rays. He did so about as well as one could ask, going seven innings with as many strikeouts, while giving up just one run. He’d square off on this day with Montreal’s Carlos Perez, who had been a solid big league starter for a few years now.

This one got rolling after a quiet first frame. Leading off the New York half of the second, Bernie Williams stayed hot and took a 3-1 pitch from the lefty up and out into the left field seats. It was the switch-hitter’s 10th of the year, and gave the Yankees a lead they would never surrender. Two batters later, with a man on third, Scott Brosius stepped up. He liked Bernie’s blast so much he figured he’d emulate it, as he lined one out to left field, just inside the foul pole. Tino Martinez would also ground out in the third to score Chuck Knoblauch and give New York a 4-0 advantage.

Hernandez wouldn’t need much of a cushion on this night, even if the Yankees gave him one. Through three, he had worked around one hit and one walk unscathed, while striking out a trio of Expos.

The hot Yankee bats would stay that way in the fourth. Leading things off, Brosius waited back on a breaking ball and got into it, launching his second homer of the game to left-center, and putting the bombers up by five. With two outs in the inning, Knoblauch would single, and be driven in by a Luis Sojo double two pitches later to extend the lead.

Meanwhile, Hernandez continued his dominance — he shut down Montreal in order on nine pitches, and after hitting the leadoff batter in the fifth, he sat them down 1-2-3 with a pair of K’s along the way. The Expos weren’t the strongest of competitors, but Hernandez and his funky windup were impressing in the early days of his career.

The bombers piled on in the sixth inning, as Joe Girardi, Knoblauch, and Sojo loaded the bases. First, Paul O’Neill grounded a ball through the right side to score a pair, followed by Williams who would lace an RBI-double to center, and Tino Martinez, who knocked in another via a throwing error from the Expos’ pitcher. All said and done, the Yankees were up 10-0 against their Canadian foes. And just for the heck of it, they’d add an 11th run after Joe Girardi tripled in the next inning, as Homer Bush knocked him in with a single.

The impressive offensive output gave Hernandez ample room to work with, but he didn’t need it. The righty worked around a single in the sixth, and crafted spotless 1-2-3 frames in the seventh and eighth innings.

In the ninth, his first blemish would appear: after Jose Vidro doubled, Vladimir Guerrero lined a single to center to put Montreal on the board. Joe Torre showed confidence in his new pitcher however, and let him try and finish what he started. El Duque would do just that, on a strikeout and then a ground ball right back to him. Over his complete game, Hernandez allowed just the one run, on four hits and a walk, while he struck out nine Expos. He threw a whopping 124 pitches, and his impact was already being felt after two impressive starts for New York.

The Yankees division lead was now in double-digits (11.0), and like usual, it felt like they could do no wrong, as this was their eighth straight victory. During the highlights, it was remarked whether this team would ever lose again, and at this point in ‘98 it felt like that more often than not.