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1998 Yankees Diary, August 23: El Duque crushed by Rangers

The Yankees’ offense nearly stole the game back, but Orlando Hernández struggled badly on this day 25 years ago.

Orlando ‘’El Duque’’ Hernandez

When a team allows a bunch of runs in the first inning, you can safely assume that they’re not going to win. Last Friday, when the Red Sox picked up four runs in the top of the first inning, the Yankees’ win expectancy in that game was just 19 percent. It went down to five percent when Boston added three more runs in the second.

On this day in 1998, the Yankees spotted the Rangers six runs in the first inning. They did not end up winning, but the fact that it even became a question is a testament to how good they were.

August 23: Rangers 12, Yankees 10 (box score)

Record: 94-33, .740 (18.5 GA)

With the Yankees in Texas for the finale of a three-game series, they sent Orlando Hernández to the mound. Ten days prior back in the Bronx, El Duque dazzled against the same Rangers’ team, striking out 13 in 8.1 scoreless innings. That would not be the case on this day.

After allowing a walk and a double to start the game, Hernández got Rusty Greer to hit a groundball. However, it was hit right at El Duque, and he got a glove on it, but couldn’t catch it. The ball rolled to Derek Jeter at short, but there was no play to be made, and a run scored. After another single — which scored another run — and a walk, Hernández finally got his first out of the day. Problem was, that too scored a run, and there was even more to come. After two more RBI singles for Texas plus a sacrifice fly that plated an additional run, the Yankees finally got out of the inning, but found themselves in a 6-0 hole.

Facing off against Rick Helling, the Yankees’ offense got on the board with a Jorge Posada home run in the second inning. They picked up three more runs in the third on a Paul O’Neill RBI double, which was partially aided by a Luis Alicea error. When Scott Brosius homered in the fifth, the Yankees were suddenly back within a run, having had a nine percent win expectancy after the first inning.

Hernández managed to settle down a bit after the bad first inning. He allowed another run in the fifth on a Iván Rodríguez sacrifice fly, but would eventually managed to get through the frame and eat up some innings. In his five innings, he gave up seven runs on right hits and three walks. It was one of the worst starts of this young major league career to that point.

The Yankees pulled within a run thanks to a Tino Martinez home run in the top of the sixth, but the Rangers struck back against the bullpen in the bottom half of the inning. After Mike Stanton couldn’t retire either of the batters he faced in the sixth, Joe Torre replaced him with Ryan Bradley. The Rangers’ offense then put up four hits off Bradley, tacking on five more runs. Having battled back into the game after the first inning, the Yankees’ win probability was down to two percent.

In the seventh inning, the Yankees chipped away at their deficit. RBI hits from Jeter and O’Neill helped the Yankees to three runs, but a Bernie Williams double play erased a chance at an even bigger inning. In the eighth, Posada homered for the second time on the day, hitting a solo shot to get the Yankees within two runs.

The score remained 12-10 as the game moved into the ninth inning. After former Yankee John Wetteland got the first out of the ninth, O’Neill gave his team a lifeline with a single. That brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Williams. Unfortunately for the second time in three innings, Williams grounded into an ill-timed double play. That one ended the game, as Texas survived.

The fact that the Yankee even got that close is still pretty impressive.