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1998 Yankees Diary, July 25: Seventh-inning disaster

The 1998 Yankees drop game to White Sox on Old-Timers’ Day.

Chicago White Sox Frank Thomas... SetNumber: X56062 TK1 R25 F18

The Yankees kicked off the month of July on one of their many hot streaks of 1998, not losing their first game until its 13th day. That loss, however, sparked a bit of a cold stretch, as they proceeded to drop five of eight over a little more than a week. As fans following this series have undoubtedly come to expect from the historic squad, the Bombers turned things around quickly, putting together a nice four-game winning streak to bring back the good vibes.

Unfortunately, not every day can be a win.

July 25: White Sox 6, Yankees 2 (box score)

Record: 72-26, .735 (15.0 game lead)

The Yankees celebrated their Old-Timers’ Day festivities prior to the game, with Jim Bouton returning to the Bronx for the first time since writing Ball Four, a book that earned national acclaim for its frank insight into the game but earner the pitcher some unfortunate scorn from his colleagues. But he was finally welcomed back into the fold on this day. The Yankee alum who stole the show in the Old-Timers’ Game itself was then-third-base coach Willie Randolph, who might have only hit 54 dingers in 2,202 career games but took former teammate Tommy John deep to left for an extra-innings homer.

After the conclusion of the exercises, the ‘98 Bronx Bombers took on the Chicago White Sox in the middle game of their three-game set. As had become the norm, the Yankees struck first against Chicago starter Mike Sirotka. After both sides traded zeroes, Homer Bush opened the bottom of the third with a double. Chuck Knoblauch advanced him to third on a weak grounder down the third base line, and Derek Jeter grounded a single up the middle to bring home the speedy second baseman and give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

Both Siroka and Yankees starter Hideki Irabu faced the minimum in the fourth. Then, in the top of the fifth, the White Sox lineup answered. Albert Belle and Robin Ventura led off the inning with a pair of singles to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Greg Norton lined a single to center that scored Belle and advanced Ventura to third, then a rookie Magglio Ordóñez — just 24 years old at the time, and with all six All-Star Games still ahead of him — brought the future Yankees third baseman home on a sacrifice fly. While Mike Cameron struck out and Chad Kreuter flew out to left, the damage was already done. Just like that, the Yankees’ 1-0 lead had become a 2-1 deficit.

While Sirotka was able to work around a leadoff double in the bottom of the inning, the Bombers struck back in the sixth, tying the game in much the same way Chicago took the lead. After Paul O’Neill grounded out on a soft grounder to the pitcher, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez each singled to put runners on the corners, then Jorge Posada brought Bernie home a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game.

Unfortunately, the tie game didn’t last long, because immediately after the bottom of the sixth ended, the top of the seventh arrived, and with it came disaster. The ChiSox rally actually began in a pretty similar manner to their effort in the fifth. Belle laced a single to left field to start the frame. Ventura advanced him to third with a line drive single of his own, his to right field. Norton dropped a single into short right field, bringing home Belle and advancing Ventura to second. Ordóñez laced a single to left field, scoring Ventura, advancing Norton to third, and chasing Irabu from the ballgame.

With Darren Holmes in to face Cameron, things got slightly better for the Yankees. Cameron reached on a fielder’s choice, but the Yankees were unable to record the out at second, while Norton scored on the play to extend Chicago’s lead to 4-2. No. 9 hitter Kreuter struck out looking on three pitches for the first out of the inning. Leadoff hitter Ray Durham, however, got the ball rolling again with an RBI single to right field.

Once again, the White Sox had runners on the corners, and once again, Joe Torre went to his bullpen, summoning the lefty Graeme Lloyd to face the lefty Mike Caruso. The move worked wonders, as Caruso lined out to second; Durham, however, would advance to second on an E4 when Bush attempted to double him up at first. Fortunately, that wouldn’t matter, as Mike Buddie — brought in to replace Lloyd — worked around a Frank Thomas walk to retire Belle and at long last end the inning.

All in all, ten batters came to the plate in the seventh for the White Sox. Although Chicago did not get even one “backbreaking” hit, as none of the five hits went for extra bases, they battered down the Yankees with a thousand cuts, and by the time the inning ended, they had a 6-2 lead.

And that’s where things would stay. Buddie would shut down the White Sox lineup the rest of the way, while Bob Howry and Bill Simas combined for three scoreless innings of work to secure the win for the Pale Hose.