• Sal Maiorana

By now, the Yankees just expected to win every night

NEW YORK (April 30, 1998) – Moments after Tino Martinez ended one of the wildest games of the magical and historic 1998 season, he stood in the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium and called New York’s 9-8 victory over Seattle, “The worst game of the season.” “When you’re playing good,” Martinez continued, “you know you’re going to win games like that. You know that you’re going to play well and the other team is going to lose.” Martinez wasn’t being arrogant. He was telling the truth because once they negotiated the early April turmoil, the Yankees closed out the month winning 16 of 18 games. And with this pulsating win they improved to 17-6 and moved into first place ahead of Boston for the first time, a spot they would not relinquish the rest of the year. Regardless of what Martinez thought of the game that he won with a bases-loaded RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning, it was certainly one of the most entertaining. “It was fun,” said Paul O’Neill, who snapped out of an 0-for-22 slide with four hits. “It’s really the first time that our bullpen has let somebody back in the game like that. It was good to show we can pick them up if we have to.” The night began like an episode of home run derby. In the first 2 ½ innings Seattle’s Ken Griffey ripped a pair of bombs off David Wells and Alex Rodriquez also went deep, while Martinez and Daryl Strawberry countered for the Yankees off Ken Cloude. By the sixth inning, with Chad Curtis contributing a pair of RBI singles, the Yankees were up 7-3 and seemed to be cruising, but the bullpen coughed up all of the lead, and then some. Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton and Darren Holmes surrendered five runs, four coming in the eighth with a Chuck Knoblauch throwing error helping open the door to a rally that gave the Mariners an 8-7 lead. “We did something tonight we’re not used to doing,” Joe Torre said. “We gave up the lead.” But these Yankees were never out of anything until the 27th out was recorded, and in the bottom of the ninth Tim Raines took Bobby Ayala deep for a tying homer. After a scoreless top of the 10th from Mariano Rivera who was back from his groin injury, the Yankees made quick work of Ayala. Knoblauch led off by getting hit by a pitch, Derek Jeter reached safely when his two-strike sacrifice bunt was misplayed by Ayala, and O’Neill and Martinez singled to end it. “That’s the best spot to be hitting in, bases loaded and none out,” Martinez said. “You’re just trying to get a ball to the outfield somewhere. This is a great game for the team that wins and a bad loss for the other team. When you’re playing well, you expect good things to happen. This was one of our worst games, and we still came back to win.”

NEXT POST on July 11: Chuck Knoblauch makes triumphant return to Minnesota.