Tettleton's HR in 9th beats Blue Jays, 3-2

October 04, 1990|By Bill Glauber

Tom Brunansky caught the ball. That was on tape. Mickey Tettleton hit the home run. That was live.

And in the age of satellite dishes and television scoreboards, baseball pennant races never will be the same.

Pity the Toronto Blue Jays. They lost twice last night at Memorial Stadium. Flashed before their eyes on the scoreboard was Brunansky's game-saving catch, the one in Fenway Park that gave the Boston Red Sox a 3-1 win and the American League East title. And moments later, live, Tettleton struck his two-out, bases-empty, ninth-inning home run that lifted the Baltimore Orioles to a 3-2 victory in the final regular-season game of 1990.

"It hit us right in the face," Toronto outfielder Mookie Wilson said. "That was reality, Brunansky making the catch and the Red Sox winning. The damage was already done. And then Tettleton hit the home run."

Yes, Tettleton -- the potential free agent, the catcher-designated hitter who happened to strike out 160 times in 1990, one season after turning Froot Loops into a power breakfast. Tettleton heard boos throughout the summer, but last night, he was cheered by the crowd of 26,913, which roared for an encore.

"I was thinking as I ran around the bases that I always wanted to do something like that, win a game with a homer, end a season with a homer," Tettleton said.

The home run -- his 15th of the season -- left the Orioles in fifth place in the American League East with a 76-85 record. The Blue Jays (86-76) finished second for the third time in four seasons.

It was a remarkable finish to a divisional race that careened into the final day of the regular season. The Blue Jays needed a win and a Red Sox loss to force a divisional playoff in Toronto. The Orioles provided a difficult obstacle, winning two of the three games in the final series.

"This kind of win doesn't make the season any better in itself," Orioles manager Frank Robinson said. "It's nice to finish on a positive note. But next year is next year. This is over. We'll go from April 1991. There is no carry-over."

Gregg Olson (6-5) won the game in relief, retiring one batter after Ben McDonald gave way in a superb 8 2/3 -inning effort. McDonald allowed 10 hits and struck out a career high of nine batters.

"I felt like I was in command," McDonald said. "It was exciting. There was a real pennant race out there. I hope one day I'm on the mound and we're in the other position, trying to win a title."

But McDonald's streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings came to an end in the eighth when John Olerud's one-out, two-run home run gave the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead.

The Orioles also had trouble against Toronto starter Dave Stieb, 1-5 lifetime in Baltimore, but a picture of veteran stability last night. Stieb (18-6) went seven innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs and striking out six.

The Orioles got a run off him in the sixth when Bill Ripken hit his second double of the game and 28th of the season over the head of Toronto center fielder Wilson. Steve Finley followed with a triple over Wilson's head, but Stieb avoided further trouble, ending the inning with a Brady Anderson strikeout and a Cal Ripken ground out.

The Orioles' lead held up until the eighth, when Fred McGriff led off with a single, George Bell struck out, then Olerud sent a McDonald fastball over the wall in right for a 2-1 Toronto advantage.

But the Orioles rallied with a run in the bottom of the eighth. After consecutive singles by Jeff McKnight and Craig Worthington, Stieb hit Bill Ripken to load the bases and Toronto manager Cito Gaston brought in his closer, Tom Henke.

Finley's sacrifice fly to right brought home McKnight with the tying run. But the Orioles couldn't push across the go-ahead run, Anderson grounded into a double play -- McGriff touching the bag at first and throwing home to catch pinch runner Rene Gonzales (inserted for Worthington) in a rundown.

Finally, in the ninth, after the Blue Jays season was declared over by Boston, Tettleton added another blow with his home run off Henke.

"You had to concentrate and do the right thing," Henke said. "I wanted to win this game. Sure, I knew Boston had won. I didn't look at the scoreboard, but I could hear the crowd. I made a good pitch, and Tettleton just hit it out. I wish I could have had it back."

But the home run was live. And the season was finished.

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