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1998 Yankees Diary, September 14: Dancing the El Duque

Orlando Hernández outdueled a future Hall of Famer as the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 3-0.

New York Yankees’ Orlando Hernandez pitching during a game a Photo by Keith Torrie/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

As we’ve seen over the last few days, the 1998 Yankees weren’t exactly the unstoppable juggernaut in the beginning of September that they were for the vast majority of that incredible year. But even in the midst of their darkest days of the year, where they lost 8 of 13 games, they were capable of putting together one a dominant performance from beginning to end.

And that outing came together courtesy of rookie starter Orlando Hernández and the best outing of his young MLB career, as he outdueled future Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martínez.

September 14: Yankees 3, Red Sox 0 (box score)

Record: 104-44, .703 (21.0 game lead)

This one started just as you would expect between a defending Cy Young Award winner en route to Cooperstown and a steady rookie and international star about to finish fourth in the Rookie of the Year vote.

Pedro and El Duque traded zeroes over the first four frames. Both teams managed to get some runners on — Hernández allowed a single to Darren Bragg and hit John Valentin in the first, plunked Scott Hatteberg (of Moneyball fame) in the third, and allowed Nomar Garciaparra to single in the fourth, while Martínez surrendered a pair of singles to Paul O’Neill in the first and fourth. Ultimately, however, the two pitchers were able to prevent any serious damage. 1998 turned out to be the only year between 1997 and 2000 that Pedro failed to win the Cy Young, but he was still runner-up to Toronto’s Roger Clemens and brutal to try and square up.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees offense finally scratched the first run of the game across. Darryl Strawberry led off the inning with a single to right field; he would advance to third on a Jorge Posada single. After Scott Brosius struck out swinging, Luis Sojo hit a fly ball to right to bring home Strawberry and give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Chuck Knoblauch struck out swinging to end the threat.

Fortunately for the Yankees offense, that’s all they would need. El Duque worked around a Mo Vaughn triple (wait, did I read the box score right ... wow, he actually had 10 career triples) in the top of the sixth, before setting down the Red Sox offense in order over the final three frames. His final line: nine shutout innings, nine strikeouts, three hits, no walks, and two hit batters — pretty good, I’d say.

Of course, this being the 1998 Yankees, they didn’t manage just one run, even against a legend like Pedro Martínez. Chad Curtis led off the seventh with a double. Brosius brought him home with a one-out single; he advanced to second on the throw home. Luis Sojo grounded out to second to advance him to third, and Chuck Knoblauch fanned on a wild pitch to bring home Brosius and reach first. While Jeter struck out looking, the Yankees had extended their lead to 3-0.

All in all, this was a quintessential 1998 Yankees win, a shining spot in a sea of debacles as the historic squad stumbled into the final turn. While the previous couple of days had not gone as planned, as would the next few, it was a reminder of the excellence of this team.