4. Game 4, 1998 ALCS
The Yankees really needed El Duque to step up in ’98. He did.
The greatest team in Yankees history temporarily forgot to win games in the middle of the 1998 postseason.
Still reeling from the Chuck Knoblauch extra-innings boner in Game 2 of the ALCS, the NYY dropped Game 3 in Cleveland, too, 6-1. Did New York overestimate their own mental fortitude?
Nope. Orlando Hernandez toed the rubber on the road in Game 4, and put a Pedro Martinez-like stop to Cleveland’s momentum. From the very first pitch, he had The Land mesmerized.
Hernandez threw seven three-hit innings, walking two, whiffing six, and throwing 115 pristine pitches. Oh, and it was his POSTSEASON DEBUT. No big deal.
This start gets the nod because of its importance in the big picture. Without Hernandez’s herculean effort, there’s a good chance New York’s greatest single-season team would’ve fallen down 3-1 in a blink, squandering 114 regular season wins, thanks in part to one of the most embarrassing blunders in franchise history (Knoblauch yelling while a live ball rolled).
Instead, the ’98 Yankees got their well-earned Museum Collection status, and Hernandez became one of the great clutch pitchers of his era. Monumental swing.