Sunday, May 6, 2018

Yankees Match Mark Set By 1998 Team

The Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 5-2 on Saturday afternoon at The Stadium for their fifth straight win.

They have now won 14 of their last 15 games, the first time they have done that since 1998, a season in which they won 114 games.

After the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton in December, adding the National League MVP to a team that came within one win of the World Series, comparisons to the 1998 team were inevitable.

It only took the 2018 team just one month to achieve something that hasn't been done since what is arguably their greatest team did it 20 years ago.

In looking back at the 1998 team, they also got off to a slow start, as they went 3-4 on a west coast trip to open the season. 

They righted the ship with a wild 17-13 home opener win over Oakland that is seen often on Yankees Classics, and they won 20 of their next 22 games.

The Yankees were 37-13 at the end of May, which this current Yankees team can certainly match the way they're going.

The 14-1 stretch in the 1998 season started on June 24 when the Yankees beat the Braves 10-6, with David Cone beating Kevin Millwood.

The only loss in the run came against the Mets on a Sunday night game at Shea Stadium, a series in which the Yankees had won the first two games. That series is most remembered for Paul O'Neill hitting a big home run on Friday night over Mel Rojas.

After that, the Yankees won 10 in a row to run their record to 65-20, and came to an end in a loss to Cleveland, who had beaten the Yankees in the playoffs the year before. The Yankees got their revenge that October, as they beat the Indians in the American League Championship Series.

With this 14-1 stretch, the 2018 Yankees are now 23-10 and have also put themselves in the conversation with another one of their greatest teams ever.

This is their best record through 33 games since they started 24-9 in 2003, a season in which they went to the World Series.

The link to that team is current Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who hit that walk-off classic walk-off home run against Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox to win the American League pennant.

Speaking of the Red Sox, they hold the best record in all of baseball at 24-9, followed by the Yankees at 23-10.

Could this be the year that they finally meet again in the American League Championship Series? 

It is hard to believe at this point that just two weeks ago, on April 20, the Yankees, who were 9-9 at the time, trailed Boston (17-2) by 7 1/2 games in the American League East.

Since then things have evened out in a sense, as Boston has gone 7-7 in the last two weeks, while New York has gone 14-1.

The Red Sox and Yankees will renew their rivalry in a huge three-game series at Yankee Stadium this Tuesday through Thursday nights.

Boston took two of three from the Yankees at Fenway in early April, a series marked by brawls spurred on by the Yankees' Tyler Austin sliding hard into second base and then getting drilled by Sox reliever Joe Kelly.

The Yankees in this stretch have proven to be a clutch team that will outlast and wear down any opponent. 

That was best epitomized by the win Tuesday night, in which their bullpen matched Houston's Justin Verlander for eight innings after starter Jordan Montgomery departed after one inning. They put up four in the ninth, including on a three-run bomb from Gary Sanchez.
They took three of four from the World Champion Astros in that series in Houston and have followed that up with two wins over the Indians, who went to the World Series in 2016 and the Yankees beat in last year's playoffs.

If they are doing this against the best teams in the league, just think what they will do when this schedule eases up.

One commonality to the 1998 season is that they get the National League East in interleague play. 

In 1998, the Yankees took two of three from the Mets (they just played that one series at Shea referenced above), swept the Phillies, took three of four with Atlanta (how did the Yankees play the Braves more than the Mets?), took two of three from the Montreal Expos, and swept the Florida Marlins, who were in tear-down mode after winning it all in 1997.

That all comes out to 13-3, and it is not hard to see the Yankees duplicating that this season.

The Yankees have only played two games against the NL East so far, as they split a two-game set with the Marlins at Yankee Stadium.
They play the Mets six times, have two more with Miami on the road in August, play Washington four times, three against Atlanta, and three in Philadelphia.

It is hard to see the Yankees losing more than three or four of those 18 games, considering how the Mets have gone the other way, as they have lost 11 of 15 since their 13-3 start, Washington is still mired in a slow start, the Braves and Phillies are young teams still finding their way, and those games in Miami will be like Yankee Stadium South.

114 wins, if not 120 wins, is entirely possible for the 2018 Yankees.

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