Blue Jays calmly look for miracle

On baseball

October 02, 1990|By Jim Henneman

No chairs were thrown around the locker room, as had been the case two weeks before when the Red Sox lost a game that dropped them into a tie for first place.

The television screen that displayed the final outs of Boston's win over the Chicago White Sox remained intact. The post-game meal was not deposited on the floor. There were no screams or shouts, no cursing their fate.

Outfielder George Bell made an attempt to lighten the atmosphere by calling out to the media throng that passed through the visitors' clubhouse. "Hey guys," Bell called out, "President Bush is over here."

The only visible emotion was that stark reality had set in. A glimmer of hope remains -- but it can't be expected to be fulfilled.

Any frustration felt by the Toronto Blue Jays after last night's 6-3 loss to the Orioles was kept in check. The defeat assured the Red Sox of at least a tie for the American League East title -- and resurrected every "back against the wall" cliche known to baseball.

The Blue Jays lost control of their destiny by losing two of three games in Boston over the weekend. Last night they lost all but the smallest glimmer of hope. They no longer can apply any pressure. They can only hope Boston folds faster than the chair Red Sox catcher Tony Pena worked over two weeks ago.

Two games out with two games to go, the Blue Jays need wins in their final two games against the Orioles and two victories in Boston for the White Sox (who have not won at Fenway Park this year). And that would only produce a tie that would necessitate a one-game playoff.

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, as calm and soft-spoken as ever, went out of his way to emphasize the game did not mark the demise of his team. "Whatever happens from here on out, we will be heard from again," said Gaston.

But not much has been heard from the Blue Jays lately. They have lost five of their last six and seven of nine. The killer loss could come tonight -- in the next-to-last game of the season, which is when Toronto eliminated the Orioles last year.

"Regardless of what happens, I'm proud of this team," said Gaston, knowing the Blue Jays will be accused of winning the footrace from first place to second. "We've had some good times and we've had some tough times. I think this club, if the guys learn from their mistakes, is only going to get better.

"Right now, it's tough. It would almost take a miracle -- but things have been happening like that in this division all year. We have to hope we can win two and they lose two."

That's a simple statement of a simple fact, one the Blue Jays know is possible, but not probable.

"It seems almost impossible," said Kelly Gruber, whose fifth-inning double drove in Toronto's final run and provided starter David Wells with a 3-1 lead. "But in this game, anything is possible -- we just have to control what we can control, and hope for the best. We shouldn't let the situation change the way we play."

For the second time in 18 days, the Blue Jays were beaten by Jose Mesa, who spent six years in their organization before being traded to the Orioles for Mike Flanagan three years ago. But this was one of those games you play over in your mind -- an early two-run lead, with a chance to break the game open. "I think he [Mesa] was fortunate," Gruber said without disparaging the righthander's performance.

"We had him where we wanted him, we hit him hard, but they [the Orioles] have a good club and they made some good plays."

Mesa and Orioles manager Frank Robinson seconded the notion that Mesa didn't have his best stuff, but Gaston was more generous. "He's pitched very well against us," said Gaston. "I guess it pumps him up because he was a part of this organization for so long."

Last night's game was one of those you could replay and find a way to win, but Gaston wouldn't second-guess his decisions to leave David Wells in to give up a two-run homer to Mike Devereaux and two subsequent singles that gave the Orioles a 4-3 lead, or the strategy that dictated an intentional walk to set up a run-scoring single by Bill Ripken an inning later.

"Any club can replay games and find out where they could win 10 more," he said. "But you're stupid if you can't put it out of your mind, because you can't do anything about it."

Which is about what the Blue Jays' position is right now. They really can't do anything about the Red Sox, who are only one win away from a division title. "We just have to win two and hope we can catch a break," said Gaston. "It's happened before, but it's tough right now. We almost have to have a miracle."

Trailing by two games with only two remaining, the Blue Jays' only hope is to extend the season one more day, then win in a playoff. It's not an enviable position, as the Orioles found out last year.

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