3. Orlando Hernandez Pushes the ’98 Indians Back
Another one of the great Yankees teams on the brink, and another heroic act to stem the tide.
This time, the silencing was done on the mound, as Orlando Hernandez took the first step in establishing himself as one of the quietest October dominators of his era.
When El Duque took the mound in Cleveland, he was entering quite possibly baseball’s most hostile environment down 2-1 in a series the 114-win Yankees could not stomach losing. The Cuban import strode to the mound in the same building in which the 1997 Yankees had let the ALDS slip away.
He was about to work in front of yet another in an endless line of sellouts at The Jake (remember that?). He was carrying the baggage of the Chuck Knoblauch Brain Launch down the first base line — and, oh yeah, the immense emotional turmoil that comes with fleeing for your life to play the game you love.
Calmly, coolly, and with a heart that beat steady, Hernandez tamed the Indians offense with a series of whispers. Seven innings, three hits, two walks, six strikeouts, not a single run.
The Yankees took this one 4-0 and ran with the series, scoring five and nine in the final two contests. From this point on, the ’98 Yankees didn’t take a single additional blemish in the postseason.
You can thank Hernandez’s ridiculous leg kick for blocking all semblance of impending disaster out of sight. He posted a 4.13 career regular season ERA and a 2.55 mark in 106 career postseason innings. Enough said, quietly.