Early to mid-September was probably the worst period the Yankees had in the 1998 season. Going into their September 13th matchup against the Blue Jays, they had lost seven of their previous 11 games and came into that day needing a win to split the series against Toronto.
They did not get it, and their mini swoon continued on for another day. Of course, it didn’t continue for too much longer.
September 13: Yankees 3, Blue Jays 5 (box score)
Record: 103-44, .701 (20 GA)
Taking the mound for the Yankees that day in the Bronx was David Cone. Sitting on 19 wins, he had a chance to set a record for most years in between 20-win seasons. The last time he had achieved the milestone was 1988 as he played across town as a member of the Mets.
Cone was quickly met by some resistance in his quest as Shannon Stewart led off the game for Toronto with a home run on just the third pitch of the game. In the bottom half of the inning, the Yankees struck pretty quickly themselves. After Chuck Knoblauch started the inning off with a triple, he scored on a Derek Jeter sacrifice fly.
In the second inning, a theme to Cone’s day would emerge. After José Cruz started the frame with a single, he moved to third on former Yankee Tony Fernández’s single. Cone managed to get out of the inning after that, but he had to throw 29 pitches in it. In the third, it took him another 28 pitches to eventually leave the bases loaded.
As for the Yankees’ lineup, they had to make some changes for that day. The flu was going through the clubhouse, leading to Tim Raines and Tino Martinez missing that day’s game. For this game, manager Joe Torre moved Scott Brosius from third over to first and at third base gave a major league debut to a prospect named Mike Lowell. In his first career at-bat in the second, Lowell blooped a single to center for his first big league hit. Unfortunately, Lowell would later become known for what he did against the Yankees as opposed to what he did in pinstripes.
As Cone battled, the Yankees’ offense got him a lead. With Knoblauch on with a walk, Jeter tripled to score him and put the Yankees on top. Next up was Paul O’Neill, who singled home Jeter for another run.
After that, Cone got through the necessary innings to get credit for a win, but it was tough sledding. He stranded another two runners in the fourth, and then needed a double play to end the fifth. In the sixth, he got two outs, but also allowed three-straight singles in the process. At that point, Torre went to the bullpen and brought in Graeme Lloyd, ending Cone’s day after 122 pitches in 5.2 innings.
However, Cone’s 20-mark wouldn’t be reached on this day. Lloyd gave up a single to Shawn Green, which scored two runs to tie the game. Torre immediately replaced him with Jeff Nelson, who only lasted one batter himself, hitting Jose Canseco with a pitch to load the bases back up. Torre then brought Mike Stanton in, but Carlos Delgado singled home a run. Green ran into an out at home trying to score a second run on the play, ending the inning, but the Jays now had the lead. For the day, Cone finished with four runs allowed on 10 hits and two walks in 5.2 innings, although he did strike out 11 batters.
Toronto picked up another run in the seventh, after which, the Yankees had their chances to strike back. They picked up two singles to start the bottom of the seventh, but the top of the order couldn’t get those runs across. Jorge Posada singled in the eighth, but he too was left there. Finally in the ninth, Knoblauch and Jeter drew two-out walks, giving the Yankees one last chance. At the plate was Shane Spencer — who had replaced O’Neill after “The Warrior” had been ejected for slamming his bat down after an eighth inning strikeout looking. Spencer was near the beginning of his famous late-season run in ‘98, but he couldn’t do anything on this day. He lined out to Stewart in left field, ending the game.