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1998 Yankees Diary, July 16: New York falls to the lowly Tigers

The Yankees wasted a strong start by David Cone and fell to the Tigers, 3-1.

American League Division Series - New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Three

New York came into this one on the heels of drubbing Detroit the night before and had David Cone pitching the second game of this set. So it was a pretty good set of circumstances for the Bombers to stack wins.

And if you’d been told the offense would ambush the Tigers in the first and that Coney would hurl eight innings of three-run ball, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was probably a Yankee win. Alas, after initially getting on the board, the bats could do nothing further and they played down to their 97-loss opponent. I guess you can’t win literally every game.

July 16: Yankees 1, Tigers 3 (box score)

Record: 67-22, .753 (14 GA)

Chuck Knoblauch led off for the Yankees and, on the second pitch of the game, he crushed a solo shot to left field. Before the 21,336 fans could even find their seats, New York was out to the 1-0 lead, with the 13-game winner Cone toeing the slab for New York.

But that was basically it for the Yankee offense. Tim Raines singled in the fourth and reached second on a wild pitch. But that was the only time a Yankee touched second base after Knoblauch touched them following his dinger.

Tigers starter Brian Moehler spun an absolute gem, making one mistake all night, to Knoblauch. Ultimately, he went eight innings, allowed only seven hits and issued not a single free pass. It’s tough to score runs when you never have anyone on base.

For a considerable chunk of the game, it looked like Knoblauch’s knock would be enough for Cone. The Yankee starter didn’t allow a Tiger to reach base until the third when he escaped a two-on, two-out mini-jam by whiffing Damion Easley.

Eventually though, Detroit managed to get on the board. In the bottom of the fifth, Raul Casanova took Cone yard for a solo job, knotting the game up at one. It stayed there, as Cone and Moehler continued to spin up scoreless frames.

Finally in the eighth inning, the Tigers pulled ahead. With men on first and second and two out, future 2001 World Series nemesis Luis Gonzalez poked a groundball through the right side. The first runner scored easily, and the second crossed home after Paul O’Neill airmailed his throw from left field. 3-1 Detroit.

Cone probably deserved a better fate with a line that read 8 IP, 2 ER, 7 K. But Detroit managed the clutch hit when it managed most, and the Yankees took the rare L.

Whether to leave Cone in or come get him was on Joe Torre’s mind as that eighth inning unfolded. Ultimately though, the skipper opted to leave the righty in, showing his confidence in Coney. Though the move backfired in the moment, it had the intended effect. “That was nice, because it told me that he trusted me... It gives me confidence,” Cone said after the game.

Torre chimed in, saying: “What I like to do with starters is give them a chance to win. But they deserve a chance to lose, too.’’ It feels like there’s probably less pressure making that decision when you’re 14 games up in the division in July and winning three out of every four games you play. Life is good when you’re the 1998 Yankees.