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1998 Yankees Diary, July 29: El Duque crushed as Bombers fall to Angels

This was not the finest day for Orlando Hernández and the ‘98 Yankees.

American League Championship Series - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Four

Obviously, the Yankees lost games in the 1998 season. It’s baseball after all; even the best teams drops plenty of games. However, it is impressive just how few times they truly got crushed. Only 10 times all season did they allow their opponent to crack double digit runs. Two of those games they won, and they got 10 runs in a losing effort in a third. There just aren’t very many “starting pitcher gave up a 10 spot early and the game was pretty much over” games over the course of the year.

Unfortunately, July 29 was one of those few instances for the 1998 Yankees.

July 29: Yankees 5, Angels 10 (box score)

Record: 74-27, .733 (14 GA)

Having dropped their season-opening series to the Angels in Anaheim, the Yankees had bounced back with a win on July 28th. They then got off to a decent start in the second game of the set. Against Angels’ starter Steve Sparks, Darryl Strawberry hit a solo shot in the second inning, giving the Yankees an early lead.

On the mound for the Yankees that day was the electric rookie Orlando Hernández. While “El Duque” had an off performance here or there, he had mostly been excellent in his major league career to that point. However, this day would very much not be his best. He threw a scoreless first, but then gave up three straight hits to start the second. The Angels would eventually plate two runs, one on a Dave Hollins single and another on a Justin Baughman ground out.

Derek Jeter leveled things up with a third inning home run, but things would turn for the worse in the bottom of the fourth. Hernández gave the lead back up quickly to start the fourth, allowing two-straight doubles to Garret Anderson and Hollins. He bounced back by striking out present day Angels’ manager and former Yankees’ coach Phil Nevin. That would be the last out he would record on the day.

As I clear my throat, here is how things went after that strikeout: single, single, double, single, stolen base, single, and a home run from Tim Salmon. When the dust settled, the Angels had opened up a 10-2 lead and Hernández was deservedly removed from the game by Joe Torre. In 3.1 innings, he allowed 10 runs on 13 hits in what was by far the worst start of his major league career to that point.

Led by 2.2 scoreless innings by Darren Holmes, the Yankees’ bullpen kept the Angels off the board for the rest of the game. But as you might expect, an eight-run deficit was a bit too much to overcome for the Yankees’ offense.

They did get a couple runs back before the game concluded, though. Tino Martinez hit a seventh inning home run. Then in the eighth, Paul O’Neill drove home two more runs with a double. Had Bernie Williams followed him with a hit to keep that inning going, things could have gotten interesting from there, but he grounded out to end the frame. The offense didn’t get much going against Troy Percival in the ninth inning, and that was that.

Thankfully for Hernández and the 1998 Yankees, there weren’t many more days as bad as July 29th was for them.