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1998 Yankees Diary: First-half review

As this day in 1998 was a post-All-Star Game off-day for the Yankees, let’s look back at what they did in the first half of their record-breaking season.

World Series Game 1: San Diego Padres v. New York Yankees

On every day with a corresponding game this year, we’ve been taking a look at what was happening on that day for the 1998 Yankees. It’s been a lot fun looking back at the wins and losses, because, to be real, most days ended with wins.

However today, there’s no game to look back on. On this day in 1998, all of MLB was off as July 7, 1998 was the All-Star Game. So instead of focusing in on one particular game, today’s 1998 Diary is going to look back and review what happened for the Yankees in the first half of the ‘98 season.

Through the First Half: 61-20, .753 (11 GA in AL East)

The Yankees began their 1998 season out on the west coast, and it did not start ideally. Playing the Angels, Athletics, and Mariners, the Yankees lost four of their first five games, with even the lone win requiring some extra innings. However, they rebounded to take the final two games of their series in Seattle, and that got them off and running.

Those two wins got them going on an eight-game win streak, one that became eventful for reasons just beyond the victories. Prior to a scheduled game on April 13th, a Yankee Stadium beam fell off the upper deck and onto seats that were thankfully unoccupied. That caused that day’s game to be postponed, and the Yankees were forced into going across town and playing a home game at the Mets’ Shea Stadium. That game did gift us the image of former Met Darryl Strawberry hitting a home run at his former stomping grounds.

The Yankees wrapped up their April with an extra innings win over the Mariners on April 30th. Tino Martinez’s walk-off single in the 10th took the Yankees into first place in the AL East for the first time on the season. They would never relinquish that spot.

As the calendar turned to May, the wins kept on coming. The Yankees went 20-7 over the course of the month, which is tied with July for their best winning percentage. Beyond that, May 1998 is arguably best remembered for two games. One is unforgettable for its perfection. The other is unforgettable for its imperfection.

On May 17th, David Wells threw a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins.

Two days after that, the Yankees were taking on the Orioles when, well, this happened:

The Yankees began the month of June with a nine-game inning steak. The third of those games was a victory over the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the first game the two franchises ever played against each other. It also featured the MLB debut of one Orlando “El Duque” Hernández. Filling in for David Cone after a — no lie — dog bite injury, El Duque put in an excellent effort and announced his presence on the Yankees for 1998 and the years to come.

The 1998 season featured some of the early days of interleague play, in which the Yankees matched up against NL East teams. They picked up series wins against all five interleague opponents, including taking two of three in the Subway Series and three of four in a 1996 World Series rematch against the Braves.

To wrap up the first half, the Yankees won 11 of their last 13 going into the All-Star break. That got them a 61-20 record at the exact halfway point of the season. That pace over 162 games would be 122, which would be a record. They didn’t quite do that, but don’t worry, there will be plenty more posts about wins coming over the rest of our diary series.