'A very unusual club'
Almost from the start, Yanks were touched by magic
Posted: Thursday October 22, 1998 02:55 AM
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Back on April 4, the Yankees were 0-3 for the first time in 14 years and already the New York tabloids and talk radio gurus were in a panic: No team had ever lost its first four games and gone on to win the World Series.
"I don't know that after three losses you can worry about pressure," manager Joe Torre said that afternoon after a 7-3 loss at Oakland. "We're still not swinging the bats. We just couldn't get anything going. We will. It's just a matter of time."
One of the greatest seasons ever was about to start, and the Yankees didn't even know it.
They got their first win the next day, 9-7 against the Athletics behind Chuck Knoblauch's go-ahead sacrifice fly. They lost 8-0 the next day at Seattle, and then the magic began.
An eight-game winning streak -- which included a win over Anaheim at Shea Stadium after Yankee Stadium was temporarily closed because of a fallen expansion joint -- put New York in first place.
After a loss at Detroit, the Yankees reeled off six more wins and were atop the AL East to stay. Then, following a loss to Toronto came an eight-game winning streak that ran the record to 23-6. They never looked back.
"We've had an uncanny knack all year," said David Cone, a team leader and often its chief spokesman. "When we need to pitch well, when we win 1-0 or 2-1, we get great pitching performances. And when we need to score runs, it seems like we're able to match up and do that. Is that character? Is it integrity? It's a team that really picks each other up and pulls for each other.
"We sense when the starter is struggling, then we score runs. And vice versa. If the other pitcher does well and we need to hold them down as a pitching staff, we do that as well."
It all added up to a 114-48 regular season record, an 11-2 postseason mark and the team's second World Series title in three seasons. Wednesday night's 3-0 win over the San Diego Padres gave the Yankees their first Series sweep in 48 years and a .714 winning percentage, the best -- regular and postseason -- since the '27 Yankees Murderers' Row team.
"It's the best club I've ever been around," Torre said during the postgame celebration. "Twenty-seven Yankees, they may be a better club, but we had the best record. To me, that was the standard that I was looking to pass."
All along the way, they destroyed records:
-- The 114 wins (including 50 in which they came from behind) broke the old AL record of 111 by the '54 Cleveland Indians and was the second-highest total ever, trailing only the 1906 Chicago Cubs, who went 116-36. It also broke the team record set by the Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig team that went 110-44.
-- They played .700 ball in each of the first four months of the season, the first team ever to do that.
-- They went 61-20 in the first half of the season, the best record since baseball went to a 162-game schedule in 1961.
-- They took leads in 48 consecutive games starting June 28 at the Mets, a streak not broken until a 9-4 loss at Minnesota on August 20.
-- They clinched a postseason berth on August 29, the earliest in baseball history, and won their 100th game on September 4, also the earliest.
-- They matched a team record by finishing 66 games over .500, the most in baseball since the '54 Indians went 111-43, and finished with a 22-game lead over second-place Boston, the largest victory margin ever for a Yankees team.
And all the accomplishments were spread out.
Cone (20-7) became a 20-game winner for the first time in 10 years, David Wells went 18-4 -- including his perfect game against Minnesota at Yankee Stadium on May 17 -- Andy Pettitte went 16-11 and Orlando Hernandez was 12-4 after joining the team in June.
Hideki Irabu, who didn't even pitch in the postseason, was 13-9.
Mariano Rivera backed the starters with 36 saves, and all that led to a 10-game winning streak, a pair of nine-game streaks, another pair of eight-game streaks, plus a seven-game streak and a six-game streak.
After the first three games, they didn't lose three in a row until Aug. 23-26, when they dropped four straight against Anaheim and Texas. They had a pair of three-game losing streaks in September, dropping eight of 12 as middle relievers fought injuries, then closed with seven straight wins against Cleveland and Tampa Bay. That started a stretch of 18 wins in their final 20 games, including the postseason. And they went through October without Darryl Strawberry, recovering from colon cancer surgery following his finest season since 1991.
"This ballclub, they're going to take MVP votes away from each other," Torre said. "It's a great feeling for a manager to know when these guys come to the field, the only thing they're interested in is winning the game. They don't care who gets the winning hit. They all want to get the game-winning hit, but they don't want to talk about it. It's a very unusual club."
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