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1998 Yankees Diary, July 24: Strawberry lifts Yanks past White Sox

On a day Andy Pettitte wasn’t quite at his best, the Yankees used the long ball to win their fourth straight.

New York Yankees Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Yankees responded nicely to one of their few rough stretches of the year 1998, bouncing back from dropping four of five to win their next three. After closing out their last series against the Tigers strong, the Yankees turned their sights to the White Sox and a three-game home set. They were in a favorable position, with Chicago limping into the series at 44-57, and with Andy Pettitte on the mound against little-known rookie right-hander John Snyder.

July 24: Yankees 5, White Sox 4 (box score)

Record: 72-25, .742 (15.5 GA)

Though the matchup seemed to be heavily slanted in the Yankees’ favor on paper, the game ended up being nip-and-tuck. In a season where he never fully hit his stride, Pettitte never seemed fully comfortable against a veteran White Sox lineup. Case in point, Pettitte quickly found himself in a two-on, two-out jam in the first inning, needing a groundout from Robin Ventura to escape cleanly.

The Yankees immediately gave Pettitte a lead. Chuck Knoblauch led off the home half with a single, and a batter later, Paul O’Neill his 14th homer of the year down the right field line for a 2-0 advantage.

From there, Pettitte had his best stretch of the game, retiring the White Sox in order in the second and third, before running into trouble in the fourth. Frank Thomas led off with a hard grounder to third, which was fumbled by Scott Brosius for an E5. After a fly out, Ventura singled one up the middle to put two on. Magglio Ordóñez followed with a single up the middle of his own to put Chicago on the board, and Wil Cordero tied the game with a line drive single. Pettitte got Mike Cameron to ground out next, but another run scored pushing Chicago in front, 3-2. Two of the three runs stood as unearned, but it was clear Chicago was seeing Pettitte better the second time through the order, and they got some good wood on the lefty.

The Yankees saw Chicago’s lengthy rally, and raised them another dinger. Darryl Strawberry wasted no time, tying the game in the bottom of the fourth with a long home run into the right field seats to tie the game at three:

We went to the fifth all square, and the White Sox continued to pester Pettitte. They loaded the bases with one out, and Pettitte had to buckle down to strike out Ventura and Ordóñez. He wasn’t able to escape the next inning, with a pair of doubles from Cordero and Ray Durham pushing Chicago back in front 4-3.

And once again, the Yankees saw the Chicago rally, and decided to just go over the top. In the bottom of the sixth, Chad Curtis worked a solid seven-pitch walk with one down, chasing Snyder after 5.2 innings of work. White Sox manager Jerry Manuel decided to go to Bryan Ward, an inexperienced lefty reliever to face the imposing Strawberry. In a full count, Strawberry unloaded his second homer of the day to retake the lead and leave poor Ward in disbelief:

Pettitte closed his outing strong, working a 1-2-3 seventh to consolidate the lead and help bridge the gap to the looming Mariano Rivera. It wasn’t Pettitte’s finest start, as he allowed four runs and 11 baserunners over seven, with six strikeouts. But he got out of enough jams to keep his team in it, and his lineup showed how useful the long ball can be on nights when the offense isn’t clicking. The Yankees managed just six hits against a middling Chicago staff, but they landed three haymakers in the form of three homers, which provided the necessary damage.

Ramiro Mendoza handled the eighth capably, and turned the ball over to Rivera for the ninth, who worked a typically uneventful frame to secure the tight win and his 26th save of the season. With that the Yankees had won four in a row; it really seemed as though they spent the entirety of 1998 on a four-game winning streak. It wasn’t their prettiest overall effort, but ultimately, it was effective.