Blue Jays wear the relaxed look of a winner as they slide into first

September 20, 1990|By Bob Sudyk | Bob Sudyk,The Hartford Courant

TORONTO -- Nobody visiting the Toronto Blue Jays' `f clubhouse moments after another tense victory last night could conclude they had just stepped over the swooning Boston Red Sox and into leadership of the American League East for the first time since July 30.

The Blue Jays had taken a six-run lead in the early innings, withstood two home runs and then held on for a 7-6 victory over the New York Yankees and a one-game lead over the Red Sox, who lost to the Orioles, 8-4.

There were only a handful of players at their lockers, the rest in the players lounge watching television, eating a postgame buffet and reading magazines.

The only emotion in the locker room was two clubhouse boys arguing over who was going to shine whose baseball shoes.

The clubhouse calm is an extension of manager Cito Gaston, smoking a cigarette with a deadpan expression Buster Keaton would have envied.

Aren't you happy, Gaston was asked?

"Happy? I'm always happy," he said. "This is how I look when I'm happy. I'm happy [today's] an off day. I'm happy we're playing well."

Of the Blue Jays' sixth consecutive victory, Gaston said, "You never take anything for granted, but it looked like we were in control of things with that big lead and might have an easy one."

The Blue Jays had scored two in the second and four in the fourth for a 6-0 lead.

Rookie Jim Leyritz hit a three-run homer in the Yankees' four-run sixth and the Yankees added another on Roberto Kelly's RBI single in the seventh for a 7-6 Toronto lead.

With two outs in the top of the eighth, Leyritz laid down a perfect bunt hit. Jim Walewander was sent in to run for Leyritz.

Pinch hitter Matt Nokes lifted a soft fly down the line that bounced high to leftfielder Mark Whiten. He threw to Kelly Gruber at third, expecting Walewander to stop there.

Walewander kept running. Gruber, also surprised, took time releasing the throw to the plate. He just nipped Walewander, who would have scored the tying run.

Yankees manager Stump Merrill said, "We were going all the way on that one. We have trouble scoring runs. We wanted to make them make the play. We almost tied it up."

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