TORONTO -- They are so calm about it, so even-tempered about even the wildest of finishes, that it is somehow difficult to believe the Toronto Blue Jays possess a share of first place in the AL East.
But they do. The Blue Jays, who were 6 1/2 games out of first when the month began, won a game in the bottom of the ninth inning for the fourth time in five days when Rance Mulliniks hit a pinch single off Jeff Robinson to give Toronto a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees last night at the SkyDome.
Kelly Gruber led off the ninth with a single off Lee Guetterman, then moved to second when Fred McGriff put down only the second sacrifice bunt of his career.
Guetterman intentionally walked George Bell and retired Ken Williams on a fly ball to center that advanced Gruber to third. But Mulliniks -- who now has three consecutive pinch hits -- hit the first pitch from Robinson through the middle.
All the while, the Blue Jays were keeping an eye on Boston's game at Baltimore, a 4-1 Orioles victory that dropped Boston from sole possession of the lead for the first time since Aug. 20.
The two starters, Mike Witt for the Yankees and Dave Stieb for the Blue Jays, were gone but not forgotten at the end. Witt pitched a two-hitter over eight innings, and Stieb was lifted after seven and replaced by Bud Black, acquired Monday from Cleveland. Black allowed a two-run homer to Kevin Maas, the rookie's 19th, in the Yankees' eighth that tied the score.
"I didn't take him out," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said of Stieb. "He had just had enough."
Witt retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced and didn't allow a hit until the fifth, after the Yankees had given him a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning. The advantage dissipated just four batters into the fifth: a single by Bell, a walk to Rob Ducey, a double to the fence in left-center by Greg Myers brought in one run and a sacrifice fly by Manny Lee sent home another.
The Yankees, the lowest scoring team in the league, had gone in front with the help of a leadoff walk from Stieb, who put Hensley Meulens on base before striking out Mike Blowers and Alvaro Espinoza.
Meulens stole second as Espinoza struck out, then scored on a single to left by Roberto Kelly.