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1998 Yankees Diary, September 30: Pettitte thrives as Bombers take 2-0 ALDS lead

The lefty spun a gem against Texas, while the legend of Shane Spencer continued in the second game of the ALDS.

BBA-PETTITTE PITCHES Photo credit should read MATT CAMPBELL/AFP via Getty Images

The 1998 Yankees were a team that grew accustomed to winning early and often, and the early stages of the postseason were no different. After taking Game 1 against the Rangers, the second game followed a similar script with a similar outcome. Excellent pitching from Andy Pettitte, and continued magic from a certain rookie allowed the good times to keep rollin’ in the Bronx.

September 30, ALDS Game 2: Yankees 3, Rangers 1 (box score)

Playoffs: Up 2-0 in ALDS (116-48 overall)

Pettitte was coming off of a rather forgettable stretch of pitching to round out the ‘98 regular season. He pitched three scoreless innings in his final appearance, but before that had gone seven consecutive starts giving up at least four earned runs, a 6.91 ERA over 43 innings of work. But, that aforementioned three-inning shape-up must have been what the doctor ordered, because Pettitte had it working in Game 2. He faced off with Rick Helling for Texas, who had pitched over 200 innings of solid-enough ball, in what would be a relatively stingy effort on both sides.

A quick and quiet first inning set the stage in the second for the story of this series for the Yankees. Pettitte worked a second straight 1-2-3 inning in the top half, and while the Bombers looked destined for the same, rookie Shane Spencer came up with two outs. As had been the case so often at the end of the season, the phenom delivered once again:

It was the first hit of the ballgame, and it gave a cruising Andy Pettitte an early lead to work with. And the lefty kept on rolling, as he worked another spotless inning with a pair of K’s in the third, and remained perfect through the fourth as well.

In the bottom of the fourth, after Spencer singled with one out, Scott Brosius came up and followed in his teammate’s footsteps. He got a first pitch up-and-away fastball and took it where good hitters often do: the other way into the right-field seats to grow the Yankee lead to three.

The Rangers made their charge in the top of the fifth, where eventual ‘98 MVP Juan González started things off with a double. Two batter’s later, future ‘99 MVP Iván Rodríguez pushed across their first run of the postseason with a line drive single into left. But, with the Rangers now on the board, Pettitte locked it in from there on.

Working around a double, the left-hander struck out the side in the sixth, and notched another in a 1-2-3 frame. Pettitte was done after seven, and it was a much-needed gem. He allowed just three hits and the one earned run, while striking out eight Rangers along his way.

Jeff Nelson replaced Pettitte for the eighth, and helped continue what his teammate started. He retired the first two batters, but after allowing a single to future Moneyball actor Royce Clayton, Joe Torre quickly pulled the plug and called on Mariano Rivera to finish out Game 2. He retired Mark McLemore on two pitches, and this game moved forward.

Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, and Tim Raines went down in order in the bottom of the eighth against Tim Crabtree, who was perfect in relief for Helling after the sixth. With a two-run lead in the bag, Rivera went out to finish things in the ninth, something he was quite good at in October.

After allowing a leadoff single, he made quick work of Rusty Greer and González, retiring each on one pitch, and then struck out Will Clark with a patented up-and-in cutter to wrap things up. The Yankees took both of the opening games in the Bronx, and headed to the Lone Star State needing just one win to advance to the ALCS. On the back of an excellent start by Pettitte, and the continued success of the red-hot Spencer, this ‘98 team moved one win closer to the promise land.