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1998 Yankees Diary, August 1: The dog days start with a win in Seattle

David Wells’ complete game led the Yankees to a 5-2 win over the Mariners.

David Wells #33

The Yankees came into this one on a mini two-game winning streak, having taken the final tilt from the Angels and the series opener against Seattle. The Mariners entered play for the second game of this series 13 games under .500, despite a truly terrifying heart of their order. That veritable murderer’s row loomed large late, as David Wells had to navigate it with the game on the line.

Wells was up to the challenge, however. Having already thrown two complete games in ‘98, including his legendary perfect game performance, he went deep into this one, looking to go coast-to-coast against the M’s offense.

August 1: Yankees 5, Mariners 2 (box score)

Record: 77-27, .740 (15 GA)

The Mariners did manage to touch Wells up early. With a runner on in the first, Alex Rodriguez launched a two-run bomb to put Seattle in front. The Yanks chipped away, though. In the top of the second, a Jorge Posada RBI single cut the lead in half. Seattle held onto the one-run lead until the fourth, when Tino Martinez hit his 16th homerun of the season to knot the game at two.

The Yankees took the lead for good in the fifth. Fittingly, considering how the scoring started, it was Derek Jeter who did the deed. Mariners starter Jamie Moyer left a 77-mph offering in the heart of the plate and Jeets did not miss. His solo shot down the left field line put the Yanks up by one.

The eighth inning, with both starters still in the game, ended up being the denouement of this contest. In the top half, a Bernie Williams RBI double drove in Paul O’Neill, stretching the Yankee lead to two. Two batters later, Tim Raines followed suit. His ribbie two-bagger brought Bernie across. That ended Moyer’s night, and when the game went to the bottom half, New York led by three.

A pair of quick singles brought the tying run to the plate for Seattle. With the game on the line, Wells had to get through Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Edgar Martinez. High drama, indeed. First, Wells got ahead of A-Rod 0-2 and got the young superstar to flail impotently at a big overhand curve. One down.

Next up, Griffey. The future Hall of Famer loved hitting against New York. His career slash line versus the Yankees in what amounts to more or less a full season (133 games): .311/.392/.595 with 36 HR and 102 RBI. But on this night, Wells was more than a match. A weak groundball did move the runners to second and third, but Wells was two-thirds of the way through the gauntlet.

Finally, Edgar Martinez. Another future Hall of Famer, Martinez came into the contest with a .964 OPS on the season... a mark that was eerily close to his career .965 OPS against the Yankees. Boomer had his number on the night as well though, and induced a pop up in foul territory to escape the eighth unscathed.

For the night, Griffey and Martinez were a combined 0-for-8. And when it counted most, Wells gritted his teeth and worked his way through an all-time great trio of hitters. Even after the stressful eighth, Wells had only tossed 112 pitches. And he was through the heart of the order.

When the ninth rolled around, there he was. Perhaps the Mariners were beaten. Or perhaps Wells was throwing balls in the middle of the strike zone in the ninth. Whatever the catalyst, he had an exceptionally painless final frame as all three Seattle hitters swung at the first pitch. Two flyballs and a pop up later, and this one was over.

The win was Wells’ 13th of the season, and his third complete game. It also put the Yankees in position to go for the sweep before moving on to face the Athletics in Oakland. Halfway through a 10-game road trip, the Yankees were looking at 35 of their final 53 games at Yankee Stadium once they finished out West.

And they knew they were deep into what could be an historically great season. With the American League and Major League single-season team wins records in their sights, Joe Torre tacitly admitted the club was hunting history as the season approached its end. “At this point, we just want to stay as sharp as we can, for what is ahead of us,’’ he said. ‘’We feel we’re part of something special here.’’