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1998 Yankees Diary, July 11: Cone throws up zeroes in St. Pete

The Bombers shut out the Rays in the Sunshine State.

David Cone

With a pair of wins in bank after the All-Star Break, the Yankees headed into the third game of their four-game set in St. Petersburg. The first two games saw them outscore the last place Rays 2-0 and 8-4, respectively. David Cone was tasked with taking on the first-year big league franchise, and would carve through the lineup with ease as the Yanks continued to roll into the second half.

July 11: Yankees 2, Devil Rays 0 (Box Score)

Record: 64-20, .762 (Up 14.0)

Cone hadn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a start since the middle of June, and over his last two outings he allowed just two total over 17 innings pitched. And considering how things went on this day, it was no secret that the righty was firing on all cylinders. He would start opposite of Rolando Arrojo, a 29-year-old rookie for Tampa bay who had been enjoying a mostly successful debut season in the big leagues.

The Yankees got right to business in the first inning. Chuck Knoblauch led things off by reaching on a hit-by-pitch, and followed it by stealing second base. Two batters later, Paul O’Neill slashed a double over the left fielder’s head to give the Yanks a first-inning lead. The Yankees couldn’t keep things rolling in the first, but they’d hand the ball to David Cone and never look back.

In the bottom half, he worked around a single thanks to a Joe Girardi caught stealing, and he set the Rays down in order in the second. While the Yankees lineup quieted down after the first, Cone kept the Rays at bay. The third and fourth were no different, as Coney worked around a double and a walk and escaped both innings unscathed.

Arrojo, however, was matching him along the way after the first inning. The right-hander notched a 1-2-3 inning in the third, avoided damage in the fourth, and worked another clean frame in the fifth. Through five innings, things remained just 1-0 in favor of the Yankees.

But Cone kept cruising, as he struck out Randy Winn and Quinton McCracken in the sixth. In the top of the seventh, New York helped out their starter by adding another run. After Scott Brosius singled and was moved to third on the same from Girardi, Knoblauch pushed him across with a sac fly to center, putting the bombers up 2-0.

Cone went untouched again in the seventh, and tallied his seventh K of the game, setting down Paul Sorrento looking. Rolando Arrojo was finished after seven, and did a nice job all things considered, with a line of two runs on seven hits with four strikeouts.

O’Neill, Tino Martinez, and Darryl Strawberry were set down in order in the top of the eighth, but Tampa Bay didn’t fare any better as Kevin Stocker, Winn, and McCracken couldn’t make anything from a leadoff double.

After 110 pitches, Cone’s night was finished, and it was an excellent one. Over eight innings, he allowed just three hits and struck out eight, all while blanking the Rays in the run column. Mariano Rivera would relieve him of his duties and try to do what he does best.

It wasn’t a drama-free outing for the future hall-of-famer, however. Wade Boggs led off with a single, and Sorrento would follow with the same two batters later. After Dave Martinez grounded out, Mo had two outs, with the tying runs were on second and third. But as if there were any doubt, Rivera got the count to 0-2, and blew one by pinch-hitter Bob Smith to secure the 2-0 victory.

This was the Yankees’ ninth consecutive victory, and 14th out of 15 games, as they continued their undefeated month of July. As it felt so often, this team was on fire even through the break. The division lead ballooned to 14, and the ‘98 Yankees continued to march toward greatness.