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1998 Yankees Diary, August 22: A Comeback in Arlington

The Yankees mounted a comeback against their former closer to secure the win.

Kansas City Royals vs Texas Rangers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Fresh off a dominant win that included a David Wells complete-game shutout, the Yankees took on the Texas Rangers in the middle game of their three game set. Just 2.5 games back from the division-leading Anaheim Angels, Texas was in the midst of a pennant race, while the Yankees had all but locked up not only the division, but the No. 1 seed in the American League. And so, when the Rangers took a late 8-7 lead at The Ballpark at Arlington, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Yanks would go down quietly, as they were truly just playing out the string and getting reps to prepare for the postseason.

Of course, if you’d actually believed that, you weren’t paying attention to the 1998 Yankees.

August 22: Yankees 12, Rangers 9 (box score)

Record: 94-32, .746 (19.5 game lead)

It was a day that both starting pitchers wanted to forget, as John Burkett and David Cone combined for 11 runs on 17 hits in 10.2 total innings in a seesaw first half. The Yankees jumped out to an early lead, courtesy of a second-inning rally of singles that saw Joe Girardi drive in Chili Davis and Derek Jeter drive in Scott Brosius. In the bottom of the third, eventual MVP Juan Gonzalez drilled a three-run shot over the wall in left-center to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead. A pair of errors, however, allowed Chuck Knoblauch and Jeter to reach base in the fourth; both would come around to score on a Bernie Williams two-out single that returned a 4-3 lead to the Bronx Bombers. That lead would last all of one batter, as Ivan Rodriguez led off the bottom of the frame with a solo shot.

The score would remain tied at four apiece when Girardi’s leadoff triple in the top of the sixth drove Burkett from the game. Against reliever Tim Crabtree, New York’s bats teed off. After Knoblauch worked a walk, Jeter drilled a single up the middle that scored Girardi; Knoblauch would go to third and Jeter to second on an error by the center fielder. A Paul O’Neill sacrifice fly then scored Knoblauch and a Bernie single scored Jeter to give the Yankees a 7-4 lead.

Like Burkett, Cone began to unravel in the bottom of the sixth, and was ultimately chased on a two-out, two-run double by Tom Goodwin that brought the Rangers within one. While Mike Stanton came in and restored order by striking out Mark McLemore and the offense scraped one run back thanks to Texas’s third infield error of the game, Stanton himself would ultimately hand the lead to the Rangers in the seventh. Rusty Greer led off the the frame with a single, then back-to-back home runs off the bat of Gonzalez and Will Clark gave Texas a 9-8 lead.

If there’s one thing these Yankees knew how to do, though, it was take a punch in the mouth and get back up. Tino Martinez grounded a single up the middle off Xavier Hernandez with one out in the eighth, and Chad Curtis added another with two outs to put the tying run on third. With the game on the line, the Rangers turned to their closer, John Wetteland, who famously held the job in the Bronx in 1996. Brosius lined a three-run shot over the right field wall to give the Yankees an 11-9 lead.

Take it away, Ken Singleton:

The Yankees would go on to add another insurance run off Wetteland in the top of the ninth, before handing the ball off to Wetteland’s replacement, the great Mariano Rivera. While Mo did make things a little interesting, putting runners on first and second with only one out, he got Warren Newson to ground into a 4-4-3 double play to secure his 33rd save of the season.

At this point in the season, the 1998 Yankees had already won more games than the championship club that Wetteland closed for two years prior. This was a clearly better ballclub, but they still had to win in October to truly match the heights of that beloved group.