The 1998 Yankees didn’t lose many series, but on this Friday night in Texas, they were coming off series defeat in Minnesota, their first such loss in a month. As they looked to snap a two-game losing “streak,” the Yankees found themselves playing a rematch. A week prior, they took on the Rangers in the Bronx, with David Wells facing off with an unpopular future member of the 2004 Yankees, Esteban Loaiza. Neither starter fared too well in the first matchup, with both giving up five runs. In round two, Wells found his footing.
Record: 93-32, .744 (up 18.5)
Wells was the story of the game, with the big lefty continuing his somewhat inconsistent but largely excellent season. Coming off that clunker against the Rangers, Wells got back in the groove, pouring pitches into the strike zone and ultimately going the distance for the fourth time in five starts.
Boomer faced just one more than the minimum through four, and found his first bout of trouble in the fifth. A couple of singles put two on with two out, but Wells fired a well-placed fastball on (or perhaps just off) the inside corner to Royce Clayton in an 0-2 count:
Jorge Posada, never much known for his framing, did a nice job quietly receiving and presenting the pitch, which umpire Tim McClelland so graciously called strike three.
Wells found himself in one more jam in the next inning, once again putting two on with two out. This time, he looped a knee-buckling curveball in to Ivan Rodriguez, who flailed through it to end the threat:
Those were the only two chances Texas had to damage Wells. He would retire the final 10 Rangers he faced without incident, en route to a six-hit shutout with seven strikeouts and just one walk. Facing a potent Rangers lineup, this would stand as one of his finest performances of 1998 (behind, you know, that big one).
With Wells spinning a shutout, all the Yankees would need from their offense was one run, but they did more than that against Loaiza. In fact, the Yankees had all they would require on the first pitch of the game, with Chuck Knoblauch leading off the top of the first with a home run:
Not to be outdone, Tino Martinez went deep to right off Loaiza in the fourth to make it a 2-0 game:
In the fifth, it was Derek Jeter’s turn, and his solo shot made it 3-0. In the sixth, Martinez again went deep, for the Yankees’ fourth solo shot against Loaiza, and Tino’s 21st dinger on the year. They’d add one more off Loaiza in the sixth, with Jeter driving in a run on a single to break the solo home run hegemony. It wasn’t an all-out assault from the Yankee offense, with the Bombers building a proverbial picket fence, scoring precisely one run in four consecutive innings from the third to the sixth. It would be plenty with a dialed in Wells on the mound.
With that, the Yankees regained their footing, easing any fears of the team at last going on a prolonged losing streak. The win ensured that they would avoid their first three-game losing streak since starting the year 0-3; that’s right, the Yankees went about five months without losing more than two straight games.