DETROIT -- After five pitches yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays had hit two home runs, both benches emptied in a near brawl and the Detroit Tigers' starting pitcher was ejected for hitting a batter in the head.
But it was what happened during the next three hours that allowed the American League East-leading Blue Jays to get out of town with a three-game lead over the second-place Tigers.
Blue Jays starter Tom Candiotti combined with relievers Duane Ward and Tom Henke to stifle the usually hard-hitting Tigers on three singles in a 4-2 Toronto victory. The win -- achieved before a Tiger Stadium crowd of 48,724, the biggest of the season -- gave Toronto two of three wins in the weekend Showdown in Motown.
The Blue Jays also took two of three games with the Tigers earlier this month in Toronto.
"They shut us down on three hits today. That was the story," Tigers manager Sparky Anderson said.
Said first baseman Dave Bergman: "It's simple -- they played better baseball than we did this weekend."
Few games in Tigers history have had such an electric beginning.
The game's first batter, Devon White, hit Tigers starter Bill Gullickson's second pitch into the seats in right-center for a 1-0 lead. Roberto Alomar hit Gullickson's next pitch into the seats in right.
Gullickson's first pitch to the Blue Jays' third hitter, Joe Carter, was low and inside. The next one hit Carter square on the batting helmet.
Carter, still holding his bat, took a couple of menacing steps toward the mound but stopped. Both benches emptied, and some players grabbed one another, but there didn't appear to be any punches thrown.
Umpiring crew chief Joe Brinkman told Anderson that Gullickson was out of the game.
"He told me because of the circumstances [hitting a batter after the home runs], Bill had to go," Anderson said.
Anderson said he didn't have a problem with the decision but reminded Brinkman about a similar situation in Boston last month (with a different umpiring crew) when Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens hit John Shelby after two homers but wasn't ejected.
"Joe told me he saw that incident but didn't want to comment on it," Anderson said.
Gullickson said he was just trying to back Carter off the plate.
"No one in their right mind would throw at someone's head," Gullickson said.
Carter said: "He threw at me, and that was weak. He's a 15-game winner in an important ballgame, and he gets thrown out after five pitches. That's what he deserved."
Down 2-0 and without their winningest pitcher, the Tigers fought back to make a game of it.
They cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the first on Alan Trammell's RBI single and scratched out the tying run in the second on a walk to Milt Cuyler, followed by a stolen base, a throwing error and a passed ball.
Jerry Don Gleaton, the emergency replacement for Gullickson, allowed only one base runner in four innings. But Candiotti had harnessed his control after four walks in the first two innings and was starting to shut the Tigers down.
After a passed ball tied the score at 2, the Blue Jays' knuckleballer retired 11 batters in a row before Mickey Tettleton's one-out single in the sixth.
The Tigers got one more scoreless inning from their bullpen after Jeff Kaiser replaced Gleaton to start the fifth. But the Blue Jays broke the tie on Kelly Gruber's RBI double off Kaiser (0-1) in the top of the sixth. They added the 4-2 run in the seventh off Tigers reliever Dan Gakeler.
The Tigers had one last gasp left when Trammell reached base against Ward on a two-out error in the bottom of the eighth. But Cecil Fielder, the potential tying run, bounced into a force-out, ending the inning. Henke (28th save) struck out the side in the ninth to preserve the win for Candiotti (10-11).
It was a disappointing six games against his ex-team for Fielder, who was 2-for-24 with one RBI. "I told our pitchers to make Cecil hit their pitch and not let him beat us," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said.
The Jays get a one-day rest before starting a three-game series tomorrow with the Milwaukee Brewers. But the Tigers get right back at it with a three-game set with the White Sox starting tonight.
"There's nothing left to do now but forget about this one, pack the bags and head for Chicago," Bergman said.