With an exhausting doubleheader in the rear-view mirror, the Yankees and Tigers headed for nine more innings of baseball, after 26 of ‘em the day prior. David Cone would toe the rubber in search of his 14th victory, and the 70th for the team. The Bombers had gone just 4-5 since the beginning of the prior week, and Coney was the ideal guy to lead the charge out of mediocrity. The Tigers, who won the first game of the aforementioned doubleheader, were also the right team to face, as they occupied last place in the Central. The differences in these squads showed quickly as the Yanks gained a little traction out of their iffy stretch.
July 21: Yankees 5, Tigers 1 (Box Score)
Record: 70-25, .737 (Up 14.5)
Opposite of Cone, the Tigers ran out Brian Moehler, a right-handed 26-year-old who was in the midst of his best big league season to date. For both pitchers, opposing lineups got to work quickly in this one.
In the top of first, after Damion Easley and Bobby Higginson got to second and third, the Tigers scratched across the first run of the game after Tony Clark reached on an error thanks to Scott Brosius. Although they had the first lead of the game, it would be a short-lived and singular one.
In their turn in the first, the Yankees punched right back. With one out, Derek Jeter shot an 0-1 pitch over the right field wall in classic fashion to quickly tie things up. Cone settled down in the second as he worked around a single in a scoreless frame, and his bat-wielding teammates continued to support him in the bottom half. The first four hitters in the inning singled, finishing with Brosius who redeemed himself with the go-ahead RBI. Girardi followed a batter later by grounding into a double play, it would score a run however, and put New York up 3-1.
Cone started the third by striking out Easley, and continued to coast into the fourth. Meanwhile, after Jeter walked and advanced to third, Tino Martinez pushed him across to grow the Yankee lead to three. Coney notched two more K’s in the fourth, and worked a 1-2-3 frame in the fifth. Chuck Knoblauch did his part during the fifth, as he led things off with another homer into the right field seats. It gave the Yankees a 5-1 lead, and David Cone all the support he would need.
In the sixth, despite a Clark leadoff single, Cone worked a fifth consecutive scoreless inning, and he wouldn’t stop there. He struck out the side around a pair of hits in the seventh, and notched his 10th and final K in another scoreless frame in the eighth. Cone was done after eight innings and 133 pitches, but it was a valiant effort. He didn’t allow a run after the first inning, notched double-digit strikeouts and walked just one.
He would give way to Ramiro Mendoza out of the pen in the ninth, assigned to wrapping this one up. He gave up a leadoff double to Paul Bako, but followed it with a pair of groundouts and ultimately a strikeout against Easley to secure the 5-1 victory in the Bronx.
With the long doubleheader on the day prior, Cone’s excellent eight innings were even more impactful, as the Yankees were able to save some of their vital arms in the ‘pen. It was their first back-to-back wins in a week, as they appeared to be back on track with a smooth victory, while their division lead stayed around the healthy mark it had been for some time.