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1998 Yankees Diary, September 5: Losing 9 to 5

Andy Pettitte continues his cold stretch as the Yankees lose to White Sox.

775753623rv_Archive_0386 Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

After reaching the century mark with four weeks to go, the New York Yankees were in a position where they could go on a historically terrible stretch, one akin to the 2022 Yankees last August, and still easily coast into the playoffs. While the 1998 Yankees didn’t quite get into the “win one game in a two week stretch” levels that we saw last year, they did stumble quite a bit in the opening weeks of September.

September 5: White Sox 9, Yankees 5 (box score)

Record: 100-39, .719 (19.5 game lead)

Up against former Yankee starter Jim Abbott, the Yankees offense jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first, with Derek Jeter grounding one through the left side for a one-out single, Paul O’Neill doubling him in with a fly ball to left-center, and Bernie Williams driving him in with a ground ball single through the right side. Just like that, the Yankees were up 2-0.

Unfortunately, the New York starter that day was Andy Pettitte, and while the left-hander had been a Cy Young candidate in each of the previous two seasons, he ended the 1998 season on one of the worst stretches of his professional career. After shutting out the Anaheim Angels across seven innings on July 30th, Pettitte would give up four or more runs in seven of his next eight starts, including five straight outings of five earned runs. Over this eight game stretch, his ERA would jump from 3.54 to 4.30, and in truth, the only reason it didn’t wind up higher was because the team’s prolific offense allowed him to still work deep into ballgames.

This day was not one of those times. Chicago got on the board in the bottom of the first, with Frank Thomas driving in Craig Wilson with a one-out single to cut the Yankees’ lead in half. Everything fell apart, however, in the second. Rookie outfielder Magglio Ordóñez led off the frame with a solo shot to tie things up. Greg Norton followed that up with a walk, and after a young Mike Cameron, mired in a season-long sophomore slump, popped out to short, Robert Machado doubled him in to put the White Sox on top. Two batters later, Wilson drove in Machado. Thomas then grounded a single through the left side, and while he was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double to end the inning — rather amusingly, on a 7-5 putout, likely due to a shift — Wilson managed to score first to put Chicago up 5-2.

Joe Torre had seen enough, and after just two innings went to his bullpen (40 man rosters really allowed for the quick hook). It didn’t help. The first batter that Jim Bruske faced, Albert Belle, deposited a 2-1 pitch into the left field seats, and three batters later, Norton added another to the pile of bombs to extend the White Sox lead to 7-2.

From this point on, the Yankees and White Sox traded runs. Chili Davis homered off Abbott in the fourth to make the score 7-3. Machado grounded out to shortstop off Darren Holmes in the sixth, driving in Cameron, who had tripled earlier in the inning. Tim Raines reached on a fielder’s choice in the seventh that drove in Scott Brosius, who had reached on a walk. Wilson homered off Jay Tessmer to lead off the bottom of the seventh. And Williams scored on a Tino Martinez 4-3 groundout after lacing a one-out single in the eighth. All of this combined for a final score of 9 to 5 and a Chicago victory.