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1998 Yankees Diary, August 10: Final Score Closer Than Game Appeared

Mike Stanton makes it interesting, but an efficient day on offense and an electric outing by Hideki Irabu carries the game.

Texas Rangers v New York Yankees Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

After a four-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals was complete, another AL Central opponent, the Minnesota Twins, came to town. Far from the team that would win its division only to get manhandled by the Bombers in the postseason in the 2000s, the Twins were one of the Junior Circuit’s bottom feeders in 1998.

Not surprisingly, this series would foreshadow future playoff series.

August 10: Yankees 7, Twins 3 (box score)

Record: 85-29, .746 (17.5 game lead)

The Yankees were slow and methodical against Minnesota starter and Brooklyn native Frankie Rodriguez. After Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter lined out and flied out, respectively, to lead off the bottom of the first, Paul O’Neill worked a walk, advanced to second on a Bernie Williams single, and scored on a Tino Martinez single. In the second, Chad Curtis and Scott Brosius each singled with one out and Jeter joined the party with two outs. In the fourth, Brosius followed up a Curtis walk with a two-run shot and O’Neill plated Knoblauch on a sacrifice fly to add another one. And in the seventh, Williams dropped a solo shot into the right field seats to bring the total number of runs scored for the Yankees to seven.

Unlike their games earlier in the week against Kansas City, there was no big inning where the Yankees put up a large crooked number that turned the game from a sizeable lead to blowout territory. But, as had become a theme, the Bombers were very efficient at the plate. They left only five runners on base the entire game, and seven of their 14 baserunners — a full 50 percent — came around to score. Double-digit baserunners, with half of them scoring? That’s a recipe for success.

No matter the success of the Yankees offense, however, the real story of the game was starter Hideki Irabu. In his first start against Minnesota, back on May 8th, he shoved, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out three in a 5-1 victory. Two months later, he was even better. His final line is elite — two hits in seven shutout innings, striking out four and walking only two — but even that fails to tell the whole story. Like an All-Pro offensive lineman against a backup cornerback, Irabu bowled over the Twins lineup. The only batter who reached second base against him was Otis Nixon, who did so twice, courtesy of stolen bases in the first and third.

Only one player did not join in the good vibes of the evening, and that was reliever Mike Stanton, who came on in relief in the top of the eighth. He allowed the first batter he faced, Pat Meares, to reach on a line drive single to second base, walked Nixon, and surrendered a three-run homer to Matt Lawton on an 0-1 pitch. Paul Molitor reached on an E6, and just like that, the Twins were storming back with noted Yankee-killer David Ortiz up to bat. Ortiz’s Yankee-killing days, however, were in the future and in a much less appealing uniform, and instead of continuing the rally, he grounded into a 4-6-3 double play that took the wind out of Minnesota’s sails. Although Ron Coomer singled to left, Todd Walker would meekly ground out to second base to end the inning.

Stanton would go on and redeem himself with a 1-2-3 top of the ninth, allowing Joe Torre to rest the other big arms in his bullpen. With the win, the Yankees had now won five straight for the seventh time that season.