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1998 Yankees Diary, July 22: El Duque strong as Bombers crush Tigers

On three days rest, Hernández buckled down after some frustration as the Yankees dominated Detroit.

Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees

The most impressive trait about the 1998 Yankees is the fact that they so rarely seemed to give games away. There have been plenty of contests that we’ve recapped in this diary series that featured a key juncture where if things were just a little bit different, the team could’ve seen it all go south, taking a loss. Instead in so many of those, the 1998 Yankees buckled down and came away with a win.

There was one of those moments in this particular game on July 22nd. Not only did the Yankees end up righting things and coming away with a win in this one, they ended up obliterating the other team in the process. That’s how you get to over 45 games over .500 before August.

July 22: Yankees 13, Tigers 2 (box score)

Record: 71-25, .740 (15.5 GA)

Facing Detroit starter Brian Powell, the Yankees’ offense jumped on the Tigers quickly. With two on and one out in the first, Tino Martinez singled home a run, with Bernie Williams going from first to third thanks to a Tigers’ error. That allowed Williams to score when Tim Raines followed that with another single. In the second, Martinez came through again when he doubled with two outs and the bases loaded. Two score on the hit, and yet another Tigers error allowed Jeter to come home, making Martinez’s double a bases-clearing one. The score was 5-0, New York, after just two frames.

On the mound that day for the Yankees was Orlando Hernández. Making his first career MLB start on three days’ rest due to a recent doubleheader and Joe Torre’s comfort with his lengthy international experience, El Duque worked into and out of some trouble in the first inning. He then ran into some issues again in the third. After starting the inning with a walk, he got one out, but then allowed a single to Bobby Higginson. Tony Clark followed that with a double, getting the Tigers on the board. With two runners now in scoring position, Hernández was called for a balk. The pitcher was not happy about the call and protested it. Despite his frustrations, a run scored and another was 90 feet away with still just one out in the inning.

On plenty of other teams and with plenty of other pitchers, the annoyance and frustration at the balk call could’ve spilled over into something worse. It’s possible a 5-2 lead then suddenly turns into a 5-4 one, or even a tie game. Instead, Hernández buckled down and got out of the inning. He ended up fighting through six innings, limiting the damage to just that two runs. Meanwhile, his offense went off.

In the half inning after the balk, Chuck Knoblauch extended the lead with a three-run homer in the third. In the fourth, Darryl Strawberry got the Yankees into double digits with a two-run shot. Powell’s day came to a close after the fourth, having allowed 10 runs (only nine earned) on seven hits and five walks.

Jorge Posada got in on the home run party when he hit a solo dinger in the seventh inning. The Yankees’ offense finished their day with 13 runs, picking up a couple more thanks to a wild pitch and a run-scoring Martinez ground out. Meanwhile, Darren Holmes replaced El Duque and finished things off. Despite allowing five hits, he kept the Tigers off the board and was credited with a three-inning save as the Yankees won by 11.

The balk call could very easily have derailed many lesser teams. Instead, the 1998 Yankees turned it into a double-digit run win.