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1998 Yankees Diary, August 25: Traffic jam halts Bombers

New York would rue their many wasted opportunities with runners in scoring position.

Yankees V Angels

There are few nits one can pick with the 1998 Yankees’ season, but perhaps the one stretch you could criticize concerns the team’s slight downturn in form in the final month of summer. It would have been unreasonable to expect that squad to maintain their unconscious pace for an entire campaign, and indeed the wear of a long season began to appear from the third week of August to the third week of September, during which the Yankees went 15-18. This particular game against the Angels helped usher in that stretch, as the Yankees equaled their season-worst losing streak of three (notably, the first three games of the season).

August 25: Yankees 6, Angels 7 (box score)

Record: 94-35, .729 (up 17.0)

Hideki Irabu entered this contest coming off one of the best starts of his career — seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball against the Twins. It appeared the momentum of that outing had carried into this one as he struck out three across the first two innings. Meanwhile, the offense got off to a flying start, Chuck Knoblauch leading off the first with a single and scoring on a Bernie Williams single, himself scoring a batter later on a Tino Martinez double. Just like that, the Yankees had an early lead, 2-0.

Anaheim cut into that lead in the second, a Randy Velarde groundout plating Gary Disarcina after his leadoff double. However, the Bombers responded in the third, Derek Jeter leading off with a single followed by a Paul O’Neill home run to make it 4-1 Yankees. They had a chance for more, with Williams singling but getting caught stealing, Martinez doubling and Jorge Posada walking, but the Bombers would fail to cash in those runners, which would turn into the theme of their night.

A pair of one-out singles by Knoblauch and Jeter in the fourth knocked Angels starter Omar Olivares from the game, and a balk by reliever Allen Watson advanced the pair to second and third. However, an O’Neill groundout and Williams strikeout stranded the pair. It was at this point that Irabu started to unravel. He loaded the bases on a pair of walks and error in the fourth but didn’t allow any to score, but the reprieve would be short-lived. With one out in the sixth, he plunked Garrett Anderson followed by three straight singles by Jim Edmonds, Troy Glaus, and Matt Walbeck to cut the Yankees lead to 4-3. After a walk to leadoff the seventh Irabu departed having given up four runs on five hits and five walks in six-plus innings.

Joe Torre turned to Mike Stanton, who immediately threw the ball away trying to pick off the runner at first. A Darin Ersrtad double and singles by Anderson and Edmonds later, the Angels had a 5-4 lead and Torre was forced into his second pitching change of the inning. Mike Buddie didn’t fare any better, surrendering a two-run double to Glaus to make it 7-4 Angels.

New York pulled one back in the seventh, Williams leading off with a double and scoring on a Chili Davis pinch-hit single, and another in the eighth on three singles from Scott Brosius, Jeter, and O’Neill. However, they stranded another three runner between the two frames to head to the bottom of the ninth down 7-6. Once again they created traffic, Davis, Tim Raines, and Knoblauch each drawing a walk off Troy Percival. However, Jeter grounded back to the Angels closer, who flipped to first to end the game with three ducks on the pond.