TORONTO -- Given the absurdity of this season, this probably is the only way it could have happened for the Boston Red Sox, who so far have routed the Toronto Blue Jays in a series that Boston made almost insignificant with its poor play the past few weeks.
With nothing to lose and, probably, nothing to gain, the Red Sox torched Toronto for the second straight game, 7-1, at SkyDome yesterday, a performance so impressive you weren't sure whether to laugh or shake your head in disgust when it was over.
Greg Harris, 35, pitched his first nine-inning complete game in the 95th start of his nine-year career. He also became the first pitcher in a while to make Joe Carter look sick, shutting down the fearsome slugger and holding the Jays to four hits. Jack Clark had three RBI, including a critical two-run double in the fifth. Wade Boggs (.342) had three hits and smoked the ball in each of his five at-bats.
Asked if the Red Sox were capable of putting pressure on Toronto from nine games out in the American League East, Harris said, "I think it's already starting to happen. Their starting pitching is starting to fail a little bit, their relievers are burned out and the offense isn't hitting. They're finding themselves in a slump they haven't been in yet. I believe they're going to have to find out what kind of people they are."
The Sox (52-57) are 7-4 vs. Toronto this season as they send out Mike Gardiner against Jimmy Key at 1:35 this afternoon. Another win would make it interesting with Roger Clemens going in tomorrow night's finale, because, for the last two days, the erratic Red Sox offense has been punishing: 19 runs on 33 hits after scoring just four runs in the previous four games.
Boston has won six of its last eight at the fabulous SkyDome, tTC which, for all of its $600 million impressiveness, was unable to hold back a thunderstorm that halted play for 14 minutes at the end of the third inning before the enormous roof panels could creak into position. It was just the second rain delay since the stadium opened in mid-1989.
The roof folly, which had fans scurrying for dry sections of the ballpark and the grounds crew running amok, was somehow appropriate, for the Blue Jays themselves suddenly seem fallible, if not vulnerable. Manager Cito Gaston's back is so sore he was unable to make pitching changes the other night. He and left-hander David (Boomer) Wells are at odds. The club's offense has been in a standstill since before the All-Star break; Toronto is next to last in the league in runs, better than only Cleveland.
Toronto's brief history, of course, is blotched with late-season failures, a legacy that will be difficult to carry if the team falters down the stretch. "I look around this clubhouse, and I see Devon White's locker over there, Mookie Wilson's over there, and my partners over here (Pat Tabler and Carter) -- these are all guys that haven't been here before," said right-hander Todd Stottlemyre (10-5), who, because of the Jays' taxed bullpen, was forced to labor for eight innings.
"The character on this ball club is that we never give in. It just so happened that we got outplayed today. I got outpitched. And they outhit us. It's not any time to panic. It's just that maybe we need to pick ourselves up a little bit. That's how it is sometimes."
Until recently, Toronto's pitching has been so good that its offensive problems were overlooked. But, with the Tigers hanging around, the club might not be able to survive that way much longer. General manager Pat Gillick traded for journeyman outfielder Candy Maldonado Friday to try to add some punch.