Widely regarded as one of the greatest teams of all-time, the 1998 Yankees weren't tested much. They had the American League East all but wrapped up by the All-Star break, and they cruised through the AL Division Series, surrendering one run in three games to a Rangers club with baseball's No. 2-ranked offense.
But ask any player on that '98 roster when the club felt the most adversity, and they'll tell you the AL Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians offered the first taste of hardship.
The Yankees dropped a controversial 12-inning affair in Game 2, and they got pounded, 6-1, in Game 3. For the first time since April 29 -- the last time they trailed in the AL East -- the '98 Yanks needed to come from behind.
Of course, Mariano Rivera has always thrived off that type of adversity. It's been the trademark of his game for 19 seasons.
In Games 4-6 -- all Yankees wins -- Rivera faced 11 batters and recorded 11 outs. In fact, in the entire series, Rivera threw 5 2/3 innings and didn't allow a hit against a vaunted Tribe lineup that featured the likes of Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton and David Justice.
Rivera was his usual calming presence at the back end of ballgames when the Yanks needed him most in 1998.
As the series shifted back to New York for Game 6, Rivera fielded questions about the Yankees' 1997 ALDS against the Indians. With New York one win from advancing, Rivera had given up a game-tying eighth-inning home run to Sandy Alomar Jr., and Cleveland won two straight to eliminate New York.
The Tribe would have no such luck against a redemption-seeking Rivera in '98. With a four-run lead in the ninth, Rivera got Enrique Wilson to ground to third, then struck out Lofton.
With two outs, Rivera capped his near-perfect series when Omar Vizquel bounced weakly back to the mound. When Rivera's throw had settled in the glove of first baseman Tino Martinez, the right-hander jumped into the arms of catcher Joe Girardi.
Rivera had earned his revenge over the Indians as emphatically as he possibly could have.