After dominating the American League over the course of the regular season, disposing of the Texas Rangers in three games in the ALDS, and surviving a scare against their old nemesis, the Cleveland Indians, in the ALCS, the New York Yankees advanced to the World Series, where only the San Diego Padres stood in their way of reaching their ultimate goal. The Yankees had one of the greatest seasons in American League history in 1998, winning an A.L. record 114 games, while outscoring their opponents 965 to 656. In David Cone, Andy Pettitte, David Wells, and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, they had the deepest starting rotation in the major leagues. New York had baseball’s best closer in Mariano Rivera. The Yankees also had an exceptional starting lineup that included standouts Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, and Paul O’Neill. Still, the Yankees knew that they needed to win the World Series if they hoped to be included in conversations involving the greatest teams of all-time.
The San Diego Padres entered the World Series with less ambitious aspirations; they simply wanted to win their first world championship. Having appeared in the Fall Classic only one other time in their history, the Padres took the first step towards advancing to the World Series for the first time in 14 years by finishing 9 ½ games ahead of the second-place San Francisco Giants in the N.L. West, with a record of 98-64. They subsequently defeated the Houston Astros in four games in the League Division Series. San Diego then earned the right to face New York in the Fall Classic by upsetting the heavily favored Atlanta Braves in six games in the NLCS.
No one gave the Padres much of a chance against the Yankees. San Diego finished just eighth in the National League with 749 runs scored and a .330 team on-base percentage. The Padres also placed fifth in the senior circuit with 167 home runs, and they finished 12th in the league with a team batting average of .253. By contrast, the Yankees led the American League with 965 runs scored and a .364 team on-base percentage, finished fourth with 207 home runs, and placed a close second with a team batting average of .288.
Wally Joyner, Ken Caminiti, Tony Gwynn, and Greg Vaughn were San Diego’s only real threats on offense. Joyner knocked in 80 runs and finished second on the team with a .298 batting average. Caminiti placed second on the club with 29 homers and 82 runs batted in. Gwynn hit 16 homers, drove in 69 runs, and led the team with a .321 batting average. Vaughn led the club with 50 home runs, 119 runs batted in, and 112 runs scored, en route to earning a fourth-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting.
If the Padres had any hope of defeating the Yankees in the World Series, their pitching staff had to come up big for them. Clearly the strength of the ball club, San Diego’s staff placed third in the National League with a team ERA of 3.63 (the Yankees finished first in the American League with a mark of 3.82).
Kevin Brown headed the starting rotation, placing among the league leaders during the regular season with a record of 18-7, a 2.38 ERA, 257 strikeouts, seven complete games, and 257 innings pitched. Andy Ashby finished second on the club with 17 victories and a 3.34 ERA. Meanwhile, Trevor Hoffman compiled a brilliant 1.48 ERA and led the league with 53 saves.
Brown held the Yankee lineup in check most of the way in Game One at Yankee Stadium, limiting New York to only two runs over the first six innings. Meanwhile, two homers by Greg Vaughn, and another by Tony Gwynn, enabled the Padres to build a 5-2 lead against Yankee starter David Wells. However, New York rallied against San Diego’s bullpen after Brown allowed the first two batters to reach base in the bottom of the seventh inning. A three-run homer by Chuck Knoblauch tied the score at 5-5. Tino Martinez gave the Yankees a 9-5 lead later in the inning when he hit a grand slam home run into Yankee Stadium’s upper deck in right field. The Padres countered with a run of their own in the top of the eighth, but New York’s bullpen held on for a 9-6 victory.
The Yankees asserted themselves early and often in Game Two, scoring seven times in the first three innings, en route to taking a 2-0 Series lead with a convincing 9-3 victory. Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada homered for New York, while Orlando Hernandez worked the full nine innings in picking up the win. Andy Ashby took the loss for San Diego.
The Padres took a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning of Game Three after the two teams traveled to San Diego to continue the Series. However, the Yankees scored twice against San Diego starter Sterling Hitchcock in the top of the seventh, to cut the lead to 3-2. A homer by Scott Brosius gave the Yankees their first run of the contest. After San Diego manager Bruce Bochy went to his bullpen the following inning, Brosius delivered a three-run blast against Trevor Hoffman that put New York in the lead for the first time all evening. The Padres pushed across a run in the bottom of the eighth inning, but it wasn’t enough. New York held on for the 5-4 victory, to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Series.
Game Four remained competitive throughout, with Andy Pettitte and Kevin Brown holding the opposing lineups in check for most of the evening. The Yankees, though, eventually scored one run in the sixth inning and another two in the eighth, to take a 3-0 lead. The Padres loaded the bases against reliever Jeff Nelson with two men out in the bottom of the eighth inning. But Mariano Rivera came in to retire Jim Leyritz on a harmless fly ball to end the San Diego threat. Rivera then worked a scoreless ninth, to give the Yankees a Series sweep with a 3-0 victory. The win gave the Yankees an all-time record 125 victories over the course of the season, firmly establishing them as one of the greatest teams in baseball history.
- 1998 World Series, Andy Ashby, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Chuck Knoblauch, David Cone, David Wells, Derek Jeter, Greg Vaughn, Ken Caminiti, Kevin Brown, Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees, Orlando Hernandez, San Diego Padres, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez, Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, Wally Joyner