Their five-day hold on first place was being threatened last night, so the Toronto Blue Jays attacked the Dirty Half-Dozen.
The Baltimore Orioles' six-man bullpen, named by Kevin Hickey finally gave it up, yielding a six-run eighth inning that broke open a tie game and lifted Toronto to an 8-4 victory at Memorial Stadium before 45,569, the largest crowd of the season since Opening Day.
With Boston beating Oakland, 8-1, earlier in the day, the Blu Jays needed the victory to retain their half-game edge on the Red Sox and they secured it against Paul Kilgus and Todd Frohwirth, two valuable members of the bullpen.
"They had a pretty good string there," said manager John Oates "In the past, the bullpen shut down people, but there hasn't been a bullpen yet that didn't give up a run once in a while."
Credentials of the relief corps were impeccable under Oates one run allowed in 34 1/3 previous innings, a .139 opposing batting average and seven straight saves.
Before last night, the six had stranded 24 of 25 inherited runners.
But the Blue Jays gave no relief to the Orioles relief, capitalizin on four walks and a broken-bat single by Manuel Lee. Kilgus started the eighth and walked pinch hitter Pat Tabler to launch the rally. After Greg Myers bunted into a force out trying to sacrifice, everything caved in on the left-hander, who took his first loss of the season.
John Olerud, who has been slumping, doubled into left field o what Oates labeled "a pitch where Paul didn't want it. That was a big hit in the lefty-lefty matchup."
Ed Sprague was walked intentionally before Oates elected t leave Kilgus (0-1) in to face switch hitter Lee, who punched a broken-bat single into left to score Myers.
"In that situation, we were still in the game," said Oates. "Th book says Lee is a better right-handed hitter, but sooner or later you have to let somebody stay in and pitch, and Killer [Kilgus] has gotten some big outs for us.
"He made a good pitch, broke his bat. Six inches the other way and Junior [Cal Ripken] catches the ball."
Frohwirth entered and couldn't throw a strike. He walked Devo White on four pitches to force in another run, then Mookie Wilson broke up Frohwirth's hitless string -- 8 1/3 innings since he joined the team -- with a two-run double to right.
Roberto Alomar was out on a chopper to Leo Gomez, but Jo Carter reached out on a 2-1 pitch and guided a single into left for two more runs and put the game away.
"It would have been nice to go one more game without thi happening," said Frohwirth. "But I just didn't pitch well. I felt the same as I did every night, but I just didn't make very many pitches.
"When I came in, I wanted to make sure I got a good sinker and ground ball, but I didn't. When I got to Mookie, I threw him a slider because he's hit my sinker in the past in the National League.
"At that point, I was just trying to get any out."
Jimmy Key (9-2) labored through seven innings, pitchin resourcefully to win his fifth in a row with what Oates called "a normal game for him."
The Orioles drew closer in the ninth, when Tom Henke walke ex-Blue Jay Ernie Whitt and Sam Horn followed with his fourth homer in 10 games, a booming shot over the center-field fence.
But it wasn't nearly enough to offset the inning that matched th biggest against the Orioles this season.
Orioles starter Jeff Robinson had a tough outing with Aloma stealing four bases (matching the Blue Jays club record), but, like Key, made crucial pitches when he had to and worked into the seventh in a 2-2 tie.
"I want to say the stolen bases weren't Bobby Melvin's fault, said Robinson. "I didn't give him a chance to throw anyone out. I didn't have good stuff, so I had to make a decision, give up the base or make a bad pitch. I'd rather give up the base.
"I'm not happy about allowing so many base runners, but the on thing I learned from Jack Morris [in Detroit] was you can give up as many hits as you want and none of them count until they touch home plate."
The result ended a four-game Orioles home winning streak an proved anew that no corps, not even the Dirty Half-Dozen, is invulnerable.